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VENTURA COUNTY FAIR : Out With a Cheer : Entertainment: Carpinteria team takes top honors at fair’s first cheerleading competition on closing day. Organizers hope 12-day attendance will top 1994’s 247,823.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

They jumped, they shouted, they kicked. And they won.

Carpinteria High School’s girls’ cheerleading squad took the top honor and drew quite a crowd for the Ventura County Fair’s first cheerleading competition on the final day Sunday.

Sandra Gonzalez of Carpinteria kicked her legs furiously in the air and stretched against a picnic table to warm up as teams from Rio Mesa and Oxnard high schools ran through their drills. Six teams competed.

Her team, she said, relies heavily on stunts and “flyers,” people to toss into the air for effect.

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“We’ll do real good,” she said before her competition. Turns out, she was right. The Carpinteria girls took home the fair trophy.

George the black-faced lamb did pretty well too. After being named the fair’s Grand Champion Lamb, he waited in a pen wearing a muzzle so he wouldn’t eat the sawdust. George’s owner, Daniel Hammer, 15, of Camarillo, was also rewarded with first place in the fair’s “bred and fed” competition. The two prizes netted Daniel a marble plaque and two ornate belt buckles.

“I didn’t expect to win,” said Daniel, who had competed at the fair for six years.

George and the cheerleaders were among the attractions on the 12th and final day of the Ventura County Fair, which ended at midnight Sunday.

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As of 3 p.m. Sunday, with nine hours to go, 242,844 people had passed the gates, perused the games and goods offered by 285 vendors and taken in entertainment ranging from bands to a rodeo.

“It’s absolutely been a sensational fair,” said Teri Raley, a fair publicist. Although final attendance figures wouldn’t be available until after midnight, Raley said the numbers should top last year’s total of 247,823.

“That’s a fairly decent demonstration of community pride,” she said.

Sunday marked the last chance in 1995 for visitors to check out the home arts and animal competitions, get their faces painted, and subject their bodies to rides and cholesterol-rich foods at the annual event.

Indeed, the final day proved a busy one. The fairgrounds filled up soon after gates opened to the public at 11 a.m. And the vendors that line the fair’s streets were ready and waiting.

Carmella Johnson of Kansas City, Mo., was restocking the “Bug Buster” booth for the final day, balancing on one foot to hang stuffed seals from the ceiling. A row of black plastic cannons stood at the ready, waiting to fire small rubber balls at targets painted with green cartoon insects.

The most popular prize? Tasmanian Devil dolls. But they were hardly Johnson’s favorite.

“I think he’s kind of ugly,” she said.

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Business had been steady, she said, but she was hoping for a big crowd late Sunday. Fair attendance often swells on the final day, she said. Next stop for her booth would be a fair in Malibu.

Like many of the vendors, Pam and Jeff Werling of Alpine, Calif., would head to Pomona next for the Los Angeles County Fair. The two salespeople for Vita-Mix, a fruit juicer that looks like a high-powered blender, travel about 250 days each year, Pam Werling said.

Their 5-month-old son, Jackson Ross, goes with them. He sat gurgling contentedly in a child’s seat behind their booth. “He’s learned to sleep in the noise,” she said.

Noise swirled around their space in the Commercial Building as about 15 people listened to Jeff Werling deliver his pitch in an even, measured pace.

“I always compare it to a juice extractor; juice extractors extract the pulp, but Vita-Mix uses all the pulp, and pulp is fiber and we’ve all heard of the benefits of fiber,” he said.

To go through the full pitch, his wife said, takes between 20 and 30 minutes. No sooner had Jeff finished one cycle when another crowd formed to watch him turn grapes, strawberries, watermelon and other fruits into a drinkable, pureed mush.

Outside the building, Angela Boester of Reseda cruised the restaurant strip dressed in a fuzzy blue shark suit. For the rest of the afternoon, Boester and friend Tamara Barber of Oxnard would wander the grounds, providing photo opportunities for interested parents.

“Basically, we wave at the kids,” Barber said.

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Although Boester was sad to see the fair end, the shark suit did have its limitations. When asked about the climate inside the suit, Boester, trying to stay in character as a nonverbal shark, waved a furry fin at her face.

“It’s hot,” Barber translated.


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