Mid-State Fair

10 free things to do at The California Mid-State Fair

Krish Patel, 13, mows down his watermelon on the way to a first-place finish in the junior division of the watermelon eating contest at the California Mid-State Fair in Paso Robles.
Krish Patel, 13, mows down his watermelon on the way to a first-place finish in the junior division of the watermelon eating contest at the California Mid-State Fair in Paso Robles. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Searching for affordable summer fun?

Look no further than the California Mid-State Fair, which officially kicked off Wednesday at the Paso Robles Event Center. The fair, which runs through July 30, offers plenty of budget-friendly attractions for folks watching their wallets.

Here are 10 activities that are free with admission.

1. Get your groove on. Head to the Fort Frontier Stage for twice-daily concerts by the likes of Monkees drummer Micky Dolenz, funk group War and country bands Restless Heart, Midland and Runaway June. Or honky tonk to your heart’s delight at the 98.1 KJUG Barndance, held every night just outside the Headliner Stage.

2. Walk on the wild side. Cute critters are everywhere at the fair, including the Paso Robles Pavilion. At the Rancho Frontier area, watch cow milking demonstrations, cuddle up to baby chicks at the Farm Fresh Kids exhibit or hang out with llamas, pygmy goats and pot-bellied pigs at the petting zoo. (A cup of feed costs $1.) Watch lemurs leap and birds of prey soar at thrice-daily Zoo to You shows, presented Thursday through July 29 at the Headliner Stage.

3. Stop and smell the flowers. Surround yourself with beautiful blooms grown right here on the Central Coast. Fresh flowers go on display at the Floriculture Building on Thursday, Sunday and July 26.

4. Get crafty. Kids can play with robots Sunday at the Hearst Equestrian Center, make veggie art Tuesday at Ponderosa Pavilion or participate in daily printmaking sessions offered through the Kids Art Smart program at Studios on the Park in Paso Robles.

5. Love a parade. See majestic Clydesdale horses and playful performers on the Midway every afternoon during the event advertised as the “Biggest Little Parade anywhere.” (Those handsome horses will also strut their stuff during the Draft Horse Show on Sunday at the Hearst Equestrian Center.)

6. See a masterpiece. Watch street artist Ryan “Arcy” Christensen create photorealistic murals live at the Fair Carnival Area before heading to the Ponderosa Pavilion to gaze at paintings, photos and more.

7. Watch the feathers fly. Gobblers gallop after a remote-controlled mini-truck at the Wild West Turkey Stampede three times daily in the Rancho Frontier area. Meanwhile, babies race to the finish line at the Diaper Dash on Tuesday.

8. Juggle your options. Fresh from an appearance on ABC’s “The Gong Show,” unicycle juggling act, Something Ridiculous, brings its hilarious, high-energy shows to the Rancho Frontier area twice a day.

9. Embrace your competitive side. From relay races to eating contests to cooking competitions, the fair offers plenty of fun challenges. See how your homemade apple pie, salsa or cupcakes stack up against the competition, or test your mettle by munching watermelon, pie and donuts.

10. Flex your muscles. Athletes prove their might by hoisting giant tires, pulling beer wagons and hefting metal logs over their heads during the Strongest Man and Woman Competition on July 30 at the Headliner Stage.

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California Mid-State Fair

Admission to the California Mid-State Fair costs $8 for ages 6 to 12, $12 for ages 13 to 61 and $10 for ages 62 and up. (Children 5 and under get in free.) Season passes cost $30 for kids and $60 for ages 13 and up.

Discounts are available for children, seniors and members of the armed forces on special theme days.

The fair runs Wednesday through July 30 at the Paso Robles Event Center, 2198 Riverside Ave., in Paso Robles. For more information, call 1-800-909-FAIR (3247) or visit www.midstatefair.com.

Thursday at the Mid-State Fair

Here are our top picks for Thursday:

Hall of Bugs, Slugs and Spiders, noon

Have you ever seen a Goliath bird-eating spider? Here’s your chance. Open daily in Ponderosa Pavilion, this hands-on exhibit features a wide range of insects and even chocolate-covered bug tastings.

Zoo To You, 1 p.m.

This demonstration begins its 10-day run Thursday and will include gray and red foxes, the North American porcupine, raptors, monkeys and more.

Cattlemen and Farmers Day BBQ Dinner, 5 p.m.

Cap a day celebrating California’s agriculture with beer, wine and a steak dinner. The announcement of the 2017 Cattleman of the Year, Cattlewoman of the Year and Agriculturalist of the Year will be held at 6:30 p.m. Dinner tickets are $20 for presale, and $25 at the door.

Lets Clown Around Contest, 6 p.m.

Participants will partner up and paint each others’ faces in five minutes. After that? A clown fashion show.

Zac Brown Band, 7:30 p.m.

The platinum-selling country music group is back in Paso Robles and taking the stage at the Chumash Grandstand Arena for the third time. Tickets range from $51 to $131.