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County fair will treat visitors to free admission

By: Michelle Carl Press Tribune editor
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No need to whip out the wallet when you enter the gates at the 2010 Placer County Fair. That’s because admission is free. The “Wild & Free” fair will be held June 24-27 at the Placer County Fairgrounds. It’s all part of getting residents to take another look at the fair, which has struggled with attendance over the last several years. But new fair CEO Joan Bartosik hopes to change all that. “I’m from the fair business. I go to a lot of fairs and I’ve always wondered why this fair is not more attended,” said Bartosik, who was appointed by the fair’s board of directors in April. “This is my hometown fair. It was very enticing for me as an event junkie to take this one on.” Locals may know Bartosik from the Mountain Mandarin Festival, which grew to tens of thousands of attendees over the nine years she helmed it. By comparision, the 2009 Placer County Fair drew 22,000 visitors. “That’s not strong attendance for a four-day fair,” she said. But free admission isn’t enough to draw people back. “We had to tweak the entertainment, we had to give people a reason to come here besides the free gate and actually have fun when they get here,” she said. “We had to do something different and that’s where the lawnmower races came from.” Racers in the competitive lawnmower circuit (yes, it’s a competitive sport) will participate in an exhibition during the fair, showing off suped-up riding mowers with their blades detached. The attraction caught the attention of the California State Fair, probably because Bartosik’s husband is State Fair CEO Norbert Bartosik. “I did a lot of my coordination at night at the kitchen counter because the (lawnmower races) guy worked during the day,” she said. “A week later my husband said, ‘I think you better give me that guy’s number.’” The fairs will also unite for a special giveaway. Be one of the first 100 pre-sale or first 200 on-site to purchase grandstand event tickets, and the Placer County Fair will throw in admission to the State Fair for free. Realizing motorized sports are a big draw, Bartosik brought new events such as a monster truck rally and long-absent ones like the demolition derby. A mixed martial arts show rounds out some of the fresh entertainment at this year’s fair. For all the new attractions, the “heart” of the fair — its exhibitors who bake pies, sew quilts and raise livestock — have remained strong. Fair Board President Wayne Vineyard, 75, remembers the days when he would haul his cattle from Lincoln to the Placer County Fair as a junior exhibitor. “It’s a teaching tool,” he said. “It teaches kids if they don’t do good one year to look around and see what to do next year.” Vineyard said the tradition harkens back to the root of why fairs started — to exchange ideas on how to grow a better tomato, raise a healthier herd or can the best peaches. Another perennial fair favorite is the carnival, and this year’s will be provided by Wold Amusements, an “up and coming” family-owned carnival, Bartosik said. If your kids like to ride the zipper again, and again and again, you may want to take advantage of the presale carnival tickets. Just $20 gets you unlimited rides for all hours during a single day of the fair (the cost would be $25 during the fair). Besides the rides, food (tornado potato anyone?) and live entertainment, there’s one more thing the Placer County Fair has that no other one does, Bartosik said. “It’s right in your backyard. There’s nothing like a community fair to celebrate what’s best about the community,” she said. “Yes, the state fair certainly offers a broader selection of entertainment, but a community fair is a chance to see people you never see. There’s a lot more familiar faces at this fair, it’s like a community party and I’d like to grow that kind of spirit here.” Michelle Carl can be reached at michellec@goldcountrymedia.com. ---------- Placer County Fair When: June 24-27 Where: Placer County Fairgrounds, 800 All America City Blvd., Roseville Cost: Free. Grandstand events may be extra. Parking: $6. Info: www.placercountyfair.org or (916) 786-2023 Highlights of the Fair • Mixed Martial Arts exhibition is 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 25 • Lawnmower races will take place Saturday and Sunday, June 26-27 • Monster Truck and Tractor Pull is at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 26 • Demolition Derby is at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, June 27 • Hypnotist Susan Rosen performs all four days