WATSONVILLE—When the Santa Cruz County Fair opened Wednesday, Watsonville resident Manuel Monroy was one of the first ones through the gate, his 3-year-old son Leo at his side for the boy’s first fair experience.
On their agenda was the popular All Alaskan Pig Races, a visit to the livestock exhibits and, of course, a large bag of cotton candy.
The annual trip has been a tradition Monroy wanted to pass on to his son.
“I’ve been coming since I was a kid,” he said.
The bag of brightly colored, light-as-air confection was not the only food option the father-son duo had to choose from, not by a country mile.
One of the biggest draws for many visitors, in fact, are the multifarious food booths offering such choices as roasted meat, locally made pies and hot dogs in numerous states of existence, from the utilitarian on-the-stick variety to the street-food inspired bacon-wrapped type.
If fair-goers are interested in the latter, it may behoove them to pay a visit to Hot Doggin’ Gourmet Hot Dogs, a booth that has for 20 years been a part of the California State Fair in Sacramento, and is making its first appearance in the fairgrounds this year. It is here that one can also find various forms of tater tots, including “Totchos,” inspired by the south-of-the-border dish its name suggests.
And of course, there are the deep-fried foods, including the ever-popular breaded Oreo cookie which, while perhaps not altogether healthy, is worth a once-a-year delve into decadence.
With food out of the way, visitors should also check out the animals and produce exhibits, which ostensibly is the reason for the Fair in the first place, and beautifully showcases the year-round work by the agricultural community that puts food on tables across the nation and employs thousands of people locally.
The bug barn is a must too, as is the model train exhibit, which delighted this author’s boys for many years and could have been their only stop.
There are also numerous entertainment options, which run throughout the day.
All of this is to say that the Santa Cruz County Fair has something for everyone, and is a must for anyone that appreciates the talent, hard work and creativity of the people that live here.
The Santa Cruz County Fair runs through Sunday. For information, visit santacruzcountyfair.com.