Date Posted: 7/24/2009
I was born in California, but because my dad was a pilot in the military we would move to a new city every couple of years. Even though I lived in lots of different places across the country, I would always come back to Ventura and see my grandparents in the summers. Ventura has been a constant in my life, a place I can always call home.
One of the things I used to look forward to all year long was the Ventura County Fair. It was a long-standing tradition in my family. My mother would always recall her own childhood memories from the fair-how it was held in October instead of July and August; how local kids would get out of school just for the occasion! I would wait eagerly until it was my turn to share in that fun!
Opening day of every fair season, my cousins and I would get up at the crack of dawn and wait impatiently until the adults were ready to go. Grandpa and Grandma Sloane would pack me, the cousins and every aunt and uncle into their white Astrovan. Kids would sit on each others laps. The noise and smell of sunscreen inside that car was overpowering!
Once inside the grounds, everyone would head to the Photography exhibits and the Youth Expo. The livestock barns would come next and then lunchtime. I loved all the fair food! The popcorn, cotton candy and roasted corn were my favorites. It was fun to explore every commercial exhibit…especially the ones that gave away free food samples. There were so many different homemade salsas to try!
Grandma Sloane always entered preserves and won first place every year. Grandma Sloane’s Blonde Brownie recipe was a big hit too and won many awards. I was always so proud of her, for all the heart and hard work that went into her food. I felt lucky to have her cooking available whenever I liked!
The sound of screams and laughs from the midway would drive my cousins and I into a frenzy. We would beg and beg for the rides all day until our parents gave in. We were daredevils, if a ride twisted, turned, flew high through the air and flipped upside down, we would run onboard and enjoy the thrills. Our parents would stay on the ground, safe and sound. The Bobsled, Swings and Hurricane were my favorites.
My family would always have a Chinese dinner at the Oxnard Buddhist Temple’s booth. It felt like our little secret. The food there was so delicious but the lines were never very long! When the fireworks lit up the sky at night, I would stand amazed at the size and scale of the whole production. It was better than the Fourth of July. Exhausted, all the cousins and family would cram back in the Astrovan and drive home for the night. If we went back again during the week, the first day was always remembered as the most exciting.
Even if we didn’t go to the fair again during the summer, I was constantly reminded of the fair’s presence. Some nights I would fall asleep to the sound of exploding fireworks in my ears. The blasts could be heard from all over town!
There are so many things I loved about the fair. I always looked forward to rodeos—the exciting parachute jump, the crazy rodeo clowns, the wild rides on bucking broncos! One magical night, my mom and I were the only people in the outdoor Floriculture building, right behind the Grandstand Arena where Wynonna Judd was performing a concert. We could look through a crack and see backstage, just a few feet from the singer. That was one of my all-time favorite moments at the fair.
Even though I’ve grown up and outings with cousins become less and less, and even after my Grandma Sloane's passing in 2001, the Fair still holds a deep place in my heart today. The Ventura County Fair will always be a cherished memory of my childhood.