Ventura County Fair : County Fair Opens With Excitement : Entertainment: Kids, teen-agers and families enjoy the first day of annual event. Rides, food and contests abound.


Moments after officials sliced a long green ribbon with sharp metal scissors at 11 a.m. Wednesday, a crowd of hundreds rushed through the turnstiles--and the 1994 Ventura County Fair began.

Some, like Westlake equestrians Molly Davis, 11, and Lexi Shaw, 9, headed straight for the horses.

Others, like the Cervantes family of Ventura, raced for the exhibit buildings to see if their projects won any ribbons.

“We got up really early this morning and counted the hours,” said Linda Cervantes, 38, as she and daughters Katie, 11, and Megan, 7, hurried into the Youth Building.


Meanwhile, teen-agers and the iron-stomached bolted straight for the carnival.

“We’re here for the rides,” said Loren Holland, 15, eyes gleaming as he anticipated the blood-curdling amusements he and buddies Ian Huling and Donnie Fuller would enjoy that afternoon.

From now until Aug. 28, the three Ventura boys intend to scream their way through every mechanized attraction, gorge on all the corn dogs their stomachs can bear and chat with all the girls they get up the nerve to talk to.

“We’re going to come every day,” Ian, 15, pledged as the trio trooped off to blow their collective pool of $120.


Over in the Commercial Building, vendor Bradley Leyman peddled his wares to a different sort of clientele as he extolled the wonders of the Super Salsa Maker, a clear plastic container fitted with a whirring metal blade.

Leyman went through his shtick before a small audience of giggling children and their curious mothers.

“We’re going to make pico de gallo,” he told the group. “That means ‘beak of the rooster’ in Spanish and ‘big chunky salsa’ in English.”

The blade chopped the tomatoes, bell peppers, onions and cilantro inside the container into ever-smaller pieces.


He stopped churning and held up a commercial jar of salsa. “See this here? They made it last year so you can eat it this year.”

Ladling the freshly made salsa onto tortilla chips and offering them to the group, he urged them to purchase the gadget quickly.

“We sell this machine only through demonstrations,” he said. “If you buy right now, I will give you a second whipping blade, great for making scrambled eggs and whipped cream, for the same price of $19.95. But you have to buy it now. You can’t come back later.”

Smiling but not convinced, Leyman’s audience of 10 or so ate their tortilla chips and dwindled away. He cleaned up the counter for the next demonstration.


Outside, in pressing, muggy heat, crowds milled around the food and outdoor exhibit booths.

June Smith, 70, of Santa Paula, purchased three dozen elephant ear pastries from one concessionaire. She plans to store the fried, sugary treats in her freezer, then come back for more later in the week.

“We’re going to get some large ones and some small ones,” she said, explaining how she thaws the elephant ears periodically over the year to eat for breakfast or to give away as presents. “They freeze well, too.”

Nearby, Molly Davis buried her head in her hands and shrank from the sight of food. After Molly, her friends and family viewed the horses at the fair’s outset, they had headed over to the carnival.


Now, at lunchtime, Molly was feeling the effects of the rough-and-tumble rides.

“They’ve ridden everything they can possibly get on,” said Molly’s mother, Susie Davis, who waited on the sidelines as Molly, her brother, Austin, and friends Lexi Shaw and Sean White, all 9, banged about the whirling attractions.

The last straw for Molly was a ride that spins its customers around and around, faster and faster, until gravity glues them to the machine’s side.

She emerged green in the face and sick to the stomach.


“It was just too much,” Susie Davis said. “I think next we’ll take a walk, take it easy for a few minutes.”

The carnival defeated bravado-meisters Loren, Ian and Donnie of Ventura as well, but for different reasons. By noon, one hour into the fair, every penny of their $120 bundle was gone on a jumble of rides and three-throws-for-$5 carnival games.

“This fair is too expensive,” Loren groused, as the three headed out of the midway in search of free entertainment.

They wandered from building to building and figured out that they could eat for free if they accepted gratis food samples from the concessionaires, drink for free at the agriculture area water coolers and have a modicum of free fun at the contests announced over the fair’s loudspeaker.


In between, they could check out the girls passing by. They meant to talk to some, Ian said, “but we really haven’t gotten a chance.”

They figured over the course of the fair that their chance would probably come. After all, it wasn’t like they were in any hurry.

“We do whatever,” Ian said as they wandered past the face-painting booth. “It’s, like, all up in the air.”