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Fair Off And Running
All the fun of the county fair is well under way, and will run through Sunday, Aug. 9 but memories of the media tour stay with us.

Every year organizers of the Stanislaus County Fair in Turlock invite area media members on a brief tour of selected exhibits the day before the fair opens to give a taste of what fairgoers may expect - and we eagerly accepted again this year.

A must see is the Rainforest Adventure of green and humid vegetation, full of tropical creatures like parrots and macaws in brilliantly colored plumage, turtles swimming in pools, monkeys chattering in trees, and more surprising, a crocodile being petted on a staff member's lap and a tarantula crawling across somebody's hand.

Even the entrance to this jungle offers an intriguing choice, across a wooden bridge past giant mushroom-like plants or a squishy paddle across moving lily pads and a swoop down a slide.

New to the fair this year, this exhibit is even better than the dinosaur show presented last year, according to the publicity person. Sponsored once again by Sky Trek Aviation and designed by Clayton and Elaine Everett of Turlock, the exhibit has "furry and feathery animals from Pacific Animal Productions of San Diego and scaly and slithery creatures" provided by Brad's World Reptiles of Oregon.

The exhibit covers 8,000 square feet, is open daily until 11 p.m. and offers three 20-minute shows on weeknights, four on weekends, sponsored by Monte Vista Small Animal Hospital of Turlock. And yes - it does rain in this rain forest.

The rest of the tour was enjoyable as well. There was a glimpse from our trolley of the Charter Stage where Dora the Explorer and her cousin Diego will put on a children's show Thursday, Aug. 6, from 5:15 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Acknowledging the priorities of the average fairgoer, the tour stopped at a mini donut booth to sample the products of Danny Johnson and Naftilu Furman of Danaf Enterprises from Sacramento.

This is one of the most frequently requested food items at the fair, the guide informed us. At full capacity, the donut maker can produce up to 2,400 donuts per hour. Fried in boiling oil, they are the size of a 50 cent coin, come in flavors of chocolate, vanilla, cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar and use 75 pounds of flour in a five-hour shift.

The final stop was to try a brand new carnival ride called Windsurfer - the first of its kind and worth a half million dollars according to the announcer. The eight cars each have a sail with each wing controlled by riders so the seat flies up and down and the center tips and lifts to simulate the swooping action of wind surfing on ocean waves.

The non-thrill seekers among us were offered the bumper cars and the Super Slide.

Also new this year are free park and ride lots of 800 spaces at nearby Stanislaus State and another 400 spaces at Putman High School. From those spots, air-conditioned charter buses offer a free ride to the fair's Arch gate on Broadway Avenue.

Fast facts on the fair: it runs through Sunday, Aug. 9 with grounds and buildings open from 5 p.m. weekdays and from noon weekends. The fair closes midnight on weekdays and 1 a.m. weekends. Adult admission price at the gate is $10 and for children of ages 6-12 the cost is $3.