The California Mid-State Fair takes place over a span of less than two weeks, but there’s a whole lot packed into those 12 days. From concerts to contests, livestock judging to beefy meals, cotton candy to carnival rides, it’s all happening in Paso Robles this summer.
With so much to do and see, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. To give you a few ideas, we’ve listed at least one must-see attraction for each day of the fair.
The fair runs Wednesday through July 29 at the Paso Robles Event Center, 2198 Riverside Ave. For more information, call 239-0655 or visit www.midstatefair.com. Also check out the Fair section of at www.sanluisobispo.com/fair.
TUESDAY: MISS CMSF PAGEANT
Before the fair officially kicks off, Miss California Mid-State Fair 2012 has to be selected. This year, there are six candidates from around the county who will vie for Miss CMSF in a pageant at the Fort Frontier Stage, starting at 6:30 p.m. The free pageant will feature five categories: Interview, Platform, Talent, Swimsuit and Evening Wear.
WEDNESDAY: CATTLE DRIVE
One of the California Mid-State Fair’s most memorable traditions is a three-day cattle drive that eventually winds through Paso Robles, ending at the fairgrounds. About 50 cowboys and cowgirls and 200 animals are expected to participate in the spectacle, which officially kicks off the fair. Get your best views around 10 a.m., from Union Road to 13th Street, then Riverside Avenue toward the fairgrounds.
THURSDAY: ZAC BROWN BAND
After watching the cowdog trials in the morning and enjoying the Cattlemen and Farmer’s Day barbecue, check out the Zac Brown Band, a contemporary country band that scored four No. 1 hits with its debut album, 2008’s “The Foundation.” This Grammy Award-winning group’s hits include “Chicken Fried,” “Free” and “You Get What You Give.”
While the fair features lots of music and food, it’s also a great place for kids to show off animals they’ve raised. This year’s junior livestock schedule includes shows for dogs, hogs, steer, goats and sheep. On this day, check out the 4-H and FFA Rabbit Show at the Livestock Pavilion, beginning at 9 a.m. For more kids’ fun, there’s also the Pink Hula Hoop competition at 6 p.m.
SATURDAY: CUPCAKE CHALLENGE
The fair features several judging contests for local chefs, including the Farmer’s Favorite Cobbler & Crisps competition, the Locally Grown Salsa contest and the Cupcake Challenge, taking place at 6 p.m. at Paso Pete’s Ponderosa Stage in Frontier Town. Afterward, check out blues-rock guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd, performing at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. at the Fort Frontier Stage.
JULY 22: SHEEPDOG TRIALS
If you missed Thursday’s cowdog trials, check out these skilled canines herding sheep as directed by their handlers. Sheepherding dogs have been competing since 1867, when the first dog trials were held in New Zealand. They’ve been competing in the United States since the 1880s. This event will be held at the same time — 10 a.m. — as the draft horse show, featuring large-breed workhorses at the Equestrian Center.
JULY 23: DIAPER DERBY
Children ages 12 and under get free admission on Kids Day. Check out the Diaper Derby, which features diapered dandies who haven’t yet learned to walk crawling to the finish line, and the Tractor Races, featuring kids ages 3 to 8 racing on pedal tractors. (Sign-ups start at 1:45 p.m.) Other events the kids might enjoy include the children’s cake decorating contest, the Route 66 Obstacle Course Race and the Zoo to You animal show.
JULY 24: APPLE PIE CONTEST
Nothing says “America” like classic rock, road trips and apple pie.
The county’s best bakers will showcase their culinary skills at the Sand’s Apple Pie Contest, 6 p.m. at the Home Arts Building.
After you’ve gotten your fill, head over to The Barn for the Route 66 Animal Exhibit, featuring an assortment of cute critters native to the American West, or make your way to the Chumash Grandstand Arena for an epic concert featuring legendary rockers Journey, Pat Benatar and Loverboy, starting at 7:30 p.m.
JULY 25: COUNTRY MUSIC
Country comes to the North County in the form of Brad Paisley, the three-time Grammy Award winner best known for the No. 1 hits “Alcohol,” “Water” and “I’m Still a Guy.” He performs at 7:30 p.m. at the Grandstand Arena along with up-and-comers The Band Perry and Easton Corbin.
Performing two free concerts on the Fort Frontier Stage is Grammy Award-winning artist Debby Boone, the daughter of pop crooner Pat Boone. She scored a huge hit in 1977 with “You Light Up My Life,” before finding crossover success in country and contemporary Christian music.
JULY 26: ROCK AND ROLL
It’s two times the fun when Paul Rodgers and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts take the stage at 7:30 p.m. at the Grandstand Arena.
He’s best known as the voice behind Bad Company’s greatest hits, including “Can’t Get Enough, “ “Feel Like Making Love” and “Shooting Star.” She’s the “Bad Reputation” rocker who got her start with the all-girl group The Runaways in the 1970s.
Other attractions include swing band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, performing two free shows at the Fort Frontier Stage, and a fun Chicago Pizza Flipping contest at the Paso Pete’s Ponderosa Stage in Frontier Town.
JULY 27: DISCO SOUL
Talk about a blast from the past!
Grammy Award-winning group Earth Wind & Fire brings its signature blend of funk, soul, disco, jazz fusion and R&B to “An Evening of Music&Wine,” 7 p.m. at the Grandstand Arena. The band, which found fame in the 1970s and early ’80s with the hit songs “Boogie Wonderland,” “Shining Star” and “After the Love Has Gone,” was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.
Meanwhile, English blues-rock band Foghat performs two free concerts at the Fort Frontier Stage. They’re best known for the ’70s hits “Slow Ride,” “Fool for the City” and “I Just Want to Make Love to You.”
JULY 28: COWPOKES AND BUCKAROOS
Saddle up for the Country Rodeo Finals, 7 p.m. at the Grandstand Arena. This event, which runs over two days at the Equestrian Center, features some of the region’s finest cowpokes competing in events including bull riding, barrel racing and branding.
Meanwhile, junior buckaroos can practice their steer roping skills at Paso Pete’s Ponderosa Stage or try their luck at World Champion Mutton Bustin’ at the south end of the fairgrounds.
JULY 29: MONSTER MASH
How do you plan to spend the final day of the fair?
Watching the Livestock Judging Contest at the Livestock Pavilion? Grooving to Mexican music group Los Humildes de Hermanos Ayala at the Fort Frontier Stage? Sipping Bordeaux in Mission Square while sampling cuisine by Paso Robles chef Andre Averseng?
We suggest a more sophisticated option: Monster Trucks at the Grandstand Arena. Watch Bounty Hunter and King Krunch take on Double Trouble, El Matador and other heavy metal monsters starting at 7 p.m.