family & parenting

Faring Well at the Fair

By Rebecca Wicks
Ventura Breeze
Aug. 12, 2009

In these tough economic times especially for those of us with jobs like writing which provide a less than steady income, many of us have found our budgets a little tighter. That said, the Ventura County Fair only comes around once a year, and when you have kids it’s practically unavoidable. My goal this year: to enjoy the fair with minimal damage to the pocketbook.

Opening day we packed up the two kids and headed out. We circled downtown searching for a place to park. Dodging pedestrians streaming toward the fairgrounds we got lucky and ducked into a space.

A free downtown parking space meant $10 in parking fees averted. Good start.

Because we had purchased a sheet of ride tickets the week prior – $20 for 50 tickets, a $17.50 savings – we headed straight for the Ferris wheel.

I have never been a huge fair fan. Fried food is not my cup of tea and rides that spin are pretty much my arch nemesis but when you have kids, you do what you have to do.

Case in point: A friend of mine who is pretty much scared of heights relayed to me she ventured onto the Ferris wheel that day with her two kids. When waiting at the very top for people to climb in and out down below her three-year old – to her horror – started rocking their seat back and forth.

“Honey, please sit back – look at the ocean!” she said in a falsely chipper voice attempting to divert the little girl’s attention.

“My heart was pounding, I thought I was going to be rocked off to my death,” my friend told to me later.

After bumper boats, spinning airplanes, rumbling trucks and a ride that seem to drop my little girl out of the sky we headed to the other side of the fairgrounds home of the scariest-looking rides at the fair.

Some looked as if designed after personal nightmares. My favorite to watch was called Wind Surf. It swung approximately 20 riders up, down and then upside down where they stayed suspended while simultaneously having water shot up into their faces.

There is just so much to look at from the rides and crazy food offerings to the booths hawking leather goods to the people themselves.

If I had a nickel for every time my three-year old pointed at something – a ginormous hot dog on a stick, someone bungee jumping, a man dressed up like a banana – I would at the very least made back the amount of money we spent on food.

After taking in some rides and playing a guaranteed-win duck game we sauntered over to see some animals. While in the past my three-year old looked at pig after pig with delight this time, they just could not compete with the rides. Pigs, cows and sheep were definitely out this year for her. However, they were not completely neglected as my one-year old did seem to appreciate them.

We compromised with a pony ride. We lucked out and purchased two tickets for the price of one from a lady who was leaving the fair and didn’t need them.

After this, everyone was ready for food. This was round two for my husband who had already managed to eat a pork chop on a stick within the first 10 minutes of arriving.

“Next time we have a big BBQ we are totally serving pork chops on a stick,” he announced dripping juices onto the stroller.

With a table full of nachos, fish tacos, chicken strips and fries we discussed what we had seen and done so far. My husband asked our three-year old daughter if she liked the fair.

This is when she proudly announced that she is going to get married at the fair.

We discussed as a family how this would work logistically. Would we provide ride tickets for guests? What time would be best? What would fair organizers think?

We topped our fried food meal off with a shared ice cream cone and made a final stop at the petting zoo before departing.

We only used half our ride tickets which means we will most likely make a second if not third visit to the fair this season. We missed the youth center and botanical areas which I’d like to get to next time.

In the end we did okay budget-wise. Our tally went something like this: $1 in entrance fees; $35 in food; $10 of our ride tickets; $7 pony ride; $3 in petting zoo fees and $3 for the duck game.

My three-year old is still telling stories of the fair to anyone who will listen – family member, friend, foe or stranger – so in my book it was $60 well spent.