Santa Barbara expo pays homage to fairs of yesteryear
The Santa Barbara Fair & Expo opened Wednesday afternoon at the Earl Warren Showgrounds with what’s billed as the first “full fair experience” since the pandemic started.
The expo will run through Sunday.
This year’s theme,“Meet Me At The Fair,” is bringing back a bit of nostalgia.
“Last year our fair was a simplified version with a carnival and some local music and food vendors,” Ben Sprague, CEO of Earl Warren Showgrounds, told the News-Press Wednesday.
But now it’s a full-fledged fair again, with everything from live entertainment to baking and art contests. Exhibits are back, and an old car owned by movie legend Clark Gable graces one of the halls.
Last year’s modified fair took place in June, but the full-fledged fair is taking place during its traditional spring dates.
“These are our longstanding dates for the fair,” Salvatore Milazzo, the showgrounds board president, told the News-Press. “Springtime in Santa Barbara is a really beautiful and special time of year. So to be back to our traditional time of year and to welcome the community back onto the property after the pandemic is special …We are trying to put the best offering forward that we can, acknowledging that it is special that we can offer that to the community in person.”
This year’s fair offers baking contests, art contests, two entertainment stages, livestock, face painting, a petting zoo, a lego contest and more. There’s even a kissing booth.
“We have all the pieces of the fair … It is an homage to the fairs of yesteryear, and offers the complete fair experience to the community,” said Mr. Sprague.
This week’s fair marks the return of exhibits, which include arts and crafts. Mr. Milazzo said the fair wasn’t able to previously have those displays during the pandemic.
“I think that is a very special part of the fair that is back and that we hope to grow in the future,” he said. “Real community interaction in a real community display space.”
In addition to music, the entertainment lineup features dancing, a hypnotist and Frank the Magician. The livestock area will include goats, steers, pigs, mules, sheep and other animals. There are also interactive displays highlighting livestock and agriculture.
“We have a variety of animals that are taking up residence on the showground for the week,” said Mr. Sprague.
“In the past we have done 4-H competitions, but there hasn’t been as much interest,” he said. “So we are having a more display presentation where people can come up and look and ask questions,”
Adult entry for the fair is $8. The cost for children 6 and up is $5. Entry for children 5 and under is free.
A one-day unlimited ride wristband is $30.
The event is open today from 4-10 p.m., Friday from 4 p.m. to midnight, Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (On each day, the exhibit hall closes before the carnival.)
Attendees can park at La Cumbre Middle School or Bishop Diego High School and ride a free trolley.
“The special thing about fairs is it is truly a community event, with the carnival and the big flashy rides but also the hand-painted signs and the kids’ face painting,” said Mr. Sprague. “Earl Warren is Santa Barbara’s community event center, and we are working on this being the best one we do.”