By Marta Yamamoto
ANTIOCH -- Looking at everything on offer at this year's 80-acre Contra Costa County Fair, it's hard to imagine seeing it all in just one day.
Take the normal fair fare of exhibits, concerts, auto racing, carnival rides and vendors, add to that special events including the junior livestock auction and cook-off contest, and you might just see yourself just barely squeezing it all in. But when you add in what's new for this year, a two-day visit may seem more attractive.
"This year we're going totally wheeled," said Robert Williamson, the fair's CEO and manager. "We're providing the entertainment from roller derby and destruction derby to boat races and a roll-over contest, as well as our exciting every-Saturday auto racing."
Roller derby fans can enjoy Friday and Saturday night bouts featuring the Damned Skaters, Undead Bettys and Skaters Grim, while remote control car aficionados can take to the track racing their own cars or those rented from Delta Raceway and Hobby Shop, the track's organizers.
It's been many years since fairgoers have been treated to destruction derby, but it's back along with boat races and the roll-over contest.
"We ran them for the first time last year and they were a huge success; everybody loved them," Williamson said. "This year we built a new ramp for the roll-over contest and they'll hopefully be rolling over a lot more than last year."
Fair favorites are back in full force.
The Junior Livestock Auction brings folks out to support youth that have raised everything from market hogs, lambs and cattle to goats, rabbits and turkeys. Proceeds from the auction go back to the youth.
Another big hit is the Cook-off Contest, where the smells of grilled ribs, fish, poultry, steak and crowd-favorite chili fill the air. Lucky judges do the tasting and awards are given out.
When it comes to the more than 9,000 exhibits at the fair, having some kind of a game plan seems a necessity. Entrants are hoping to grab the blue ribbon that represents their special talent. A large area is given over to the education department where teachers enter projects completed by their students, everything from art to writing.
Whether your interest lies in flowers and gardening, home arts, fine arts or photography, there's something to admire.
"We have a lot of crowd favorites, everything from jams to quilts and sewing projects. The recycled division, where you have to make everything out of recycled materials, is popular," Williamson said. "Then there are the marshmallow animals, colored backpacks and decorated mailboxes. We get a lot of interesting things with people thinking up all sorts of creations."
Hundreds of vendors will be on hand to sell souvenirs and all types of food, from fried Oreos and corn dogs to ice cream, coffee and barbecue. "You name it, they're out there," Williamson said.
Kids of all ages can enjoy the carnival with separate areas for young children and older youth. The Kiddy Carnival will feature a small roller coaster, swings and fun maze houses, while at the midway older kids can get their thrills on the roller coaster and octopus.
Entertainment varies from traveling acts like Skip Banks -- the Balloon Man, who will stop to perform while strolling the midway, to the stage and bleacher set of Wild about Monkeys, which features live monkey shows.
Fair organizers want folks to come early and stay late and the nightly concerts promise to keep you dancing into the night. Again the motto is "something for everyone," especially with the Chris Gardner Band finally giving country western fans some country-rock lyrics and soulful harmonies.
Other performers include Tennessee River, playing its tribute to Alabama tunes; All-4-One with their four-part R&B harmonies; the 70s dance music of Big Bad Boogie Rock; Aerorock's four-decade tribute to Aerosmith; the danceability of Flock of 80z; and Hot For Teacher, a raucous rock 'n' roll circus act of music and fun.
New this year will be a Battle of the Bands, where high school bands will perform, be judged and earn money that will be donated back to their music programs. Another youth benefit is the first-time Exhibitor's Scholarship, open to any graduating senior that is a fair exhibitor. Interviews will be held at the fair and the winner announced at Awards Night.
Fair organizers are proud of one of their new promotions, where they've teamed up with the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano. "We're offering free admission on 'free-for-three' Thursday," Williamson said. "Anyone who brings three cans of food per person will get in free all day Thursday."
There's so much to do and so much fun to be had in a manner that showcases the community and all it has to offer. On average, more than 50,000 people attend for family fun and safe entertainment.
"The fair is somewhere they can see almost everything, from auto racing to monkeys to grandma who entered her jam into the fair," Williamson said. "We offer such a variety that you can come here and spend the whole day enjoying yourself."
What: Contra Costa County Fair
Where: 1201 W. 10th St., Antioch
When: Thursday, May 30, to Sunday, June 2. Hours: Thursday 12 to 11 p.m.; Friday noon to midnight; Saturday 11 a.m. to midnight; Sunday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Tickets: $7 adults, $4 seniors and children 6-12. Other savings available at www.contracostafair.com/fair/savings.
Information: 925-757-4400, www.contracostafair.com/fair.