Santa Cruz County Fair opens Sept. 12

(Linda Lorenzen of the Monterey Bay Dahlia Society works Monday at the fairgrounds in preparation for the upcoming fair. Photo by Janet Zurita/For the Register-Pajaronian)

WATSONVILLE — Every year, a legion of volunteers spends days, weeks and even months preparing the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds for the annual September event.

The work includes painting, gardening and all manner of maintenance tasks to prepare for the thousands of visitors that will soon descend on the South County destination.

Monterey Bay Dahlia Club member Linda Lorenzen on Tuesday was putting the finishing touches on a rainbow display of flowers.

Nearby, volunteer mechanics in the Agricultural History Project section were tinkering with various pieces of ancient farm machinery in hopes some of them will go on display when the fair opens Sept. 12.

Should they not make the deadline, not to worry. The Agricultural History Project already has an enormous collection of antique tractors, plows and wagons that will be on display, with the earliest machine dating back to the late 1800s.

“Everyone’s been working really hard,” AHP CEO John Kegebein said.

Featured this year is the fairgrounds’ collection of pumps, beginning with a small unit circa 1880 that was operated by hand and covered just a small section at a time. This is juxtaposed at the other end of the timeline by a large machine-driven modern unit that can cover three rows of apple trees in one application.

While perhaps not at splashy as a live hypnotist or tasty as a giant turkey leg, the restored machines and agricultural displays scattered throughout the fair arguably are the backbone of the fair, if not the reason for its existence.

For that reason, a visit to the livestock exhibits, the poultry barn and the impressive Agricultural History Project museum is well worth it.

New on the food front is a vendor that serves several different types of popcorn and cotton candy and one that serves hand-dipped ice cream bars.

A new hamburger vendor has stepped in to fill the void after Watsonville Rotary’s announcement last year that it will no longer run its traditional fundraiser booth.

Those are in addition to the heavenly mishmash of fried, frozen, meaty and sweet culinary offerings for which the fair is known.

Visitors this year might choose to see the All-Alaska Racing Pigs, a group that despite its name comes from Oregon.

The show typically draws large crowds of all ages who come to watch the small pigs race around a small track and clear hurdles as their minders banter with the crowd.

If watching barnyard animals compete for human amusement is your thing, then the Wild West Turkey Stampede should probably be added to this year’s dance card.

Also on a return engagement is Twinkle Time, a group of brightly dressed characters who sing, dance and joke their way through a musical made-for-kids show.

New this year is Rattlesnake Dave Richardson, who gives a comprehensive demonstration of venomous snakes, and ends with a rattler striking and popping a balloon.

The reptilian theme continues with the return of Brad’s World Reptiles, returning from an absence of about six years. There, reptiles, amphibians and other crawling beasts are on display for visitors to see.

Michael Mezmer is also back with his comedic hypnosis show, which has graced the stages of casinos, amusement parks, cruise ships, fairs and festivals throughout the world.

“We’re looking forward to good times,” Santa Cruz County Fair Manager Dave Kegebein said.


The Santa Cruz County Fair opens Sept. 12 at 12 p.m. The opening ceremony begins at 11:30 a.m. Seniors and veterans pay $10 for entry on opening day.

The fair runs through Sept. 16.

For a full schedule, visit or view the Santa Cruz County Fair guide inserted in this week’s Register-Pajaronian.


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