The Ventura County fairgrounds echo with the sounds of saws and drills instead of crowds and livestock. The air smells not of caramel apples and kettle corn, but of soap and sawdust. Pickup trucks and SUVs line the midway.
With less than 48 hours until the gates open to the 2001 Ventura County Fair, Seaside Park remains a bustle of last-minute activity.
"The mood is excited," said publicist Terri Raley. "I don't detect stress."
The fair begins Wednesday at 11 a.m. and runs through Aug. 12. The regional event, in one form or another, has been a community staple nearly every year since 1874.
Vendor Keith Alexander of Calimesa spent part of Monday cutting counters for his new Bappy's Kettle Corn stand. Alexander, who last year sold 3,200 pounds of popcorn from a tent, is making his third appearance at the fair.
"They thought we needed to make it look a little more substantial," he said.
Closer to the beach, Chris Leavitt helped direct tractor-trailers hauling rides and carnival attractions around the parking lot. Most of the 35 rides are coming from the just-concluded Orange County Fair.
"This is one of our fastest jobs from fair to fair," Leavitt said. "Usually we have about two weeks."
So far, only the towering Ferris wheel is in place. Workers climbed the lattice Monday to attach lights to each spoke. The rest of the rides will be assembled today, Leavitt said.
Over in the youth building, Peggy Kroener oversaw the placement of thousands of exhibits featuring artists 4 to 18 years old.
"Everything goes up, and that's always the challenge," said Kroener, the building's superintendent. "This week's always a hectic week, because you forget all the little things."
In the livestock areas, the pens that will house the show animals were mostly empty, save for a few dozen sheep and goats. Nearby, horses kicked up dust as they trotted around Morgan Arena.
Organizers hope to draw crowds with entertainment by Chubby Checker, the Village People, Los Tucanes de Tijuana, Styx, Wynona and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, as well as a nightly fireworks show.
Admission is $7 for ages 13 to 54; $4 for ages 6 to 12 and seniors 55 and up; free for ages 5 and younger.