Fair opens in Santa Maria today

The 121st annual Santa Barbara County Fair opens today, but the livestock area at the fairgrounds has been bustling with activity for several days.

Hundreds of animals, including steer, goats, sheep, pigs, turkeys and chickens, arrived at the Santa Maria Fairpark on Sunday and will be shown throughout the week by local 4-H and FFA club members.

Among the 4-H club members is Nipomo High School freshman Weston Dalton, who has shown pigs the past four years as part of the Nipomo Foothill 4-H Club.

This year, Weston, 13, raised a turkey and a South African Boer goat named Jack. The goat has been easier to raise than the swine, he said, because it is easier to control during competition.

“You don’t have to walk it around with a stick and hope that it goes in the right direction like the pigs,” he said.

Twelve members of the club are showing various animals, from guinea pigs to turkeys to pigs, lambs and steers.

“It teaches them responsibility,” said Sara Dalton, Weston’s mother and the 4-H club leader. “They have to learn how to take care of an animal. It teaches responsibility with money because they have to pay for the animal and the feed.”

More animals are being shown at this year’s fair than last year, including 94 heifers, 81 steers, 744 pigs and 257 sheep, said fair spokeswoman Yvonne Biely.

The small stock auction will be held Friday starting at noon, and the larger livestock will be auctioned off starting Saturday at 8 a.m.

The fair also features daily performances by local musicians and dancers, carnival rides, a country rodeo and new events, including a live animal show, a hands-on cowboy boot camp and a tractor pull competition for children.

The entertainment lineup includes performances by the Temptations, Foreigner, country music group Sawyer Brown and American Idol finalist Kellie Pickler. The shows are free with fair admission.

General admission is $6 for children ages 6 through 11 and those ages 62 and older; and $8 for those ages 12 through 61. An unlimited carnival ride wristband is $25 on weekdays and $30 on the weekend. Parking is $5.

The Fairpark is located at 937 S. Thornburg St. For more information, go to www.santamariafairpark.com.

Cynthia Lambert and Gayle Cuddy write the South County Beat column on alternating Wednesdays. Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.