ANTIOCH -- Summer is right around the corner, and that means it's time for the Contra Costa County Fair.
From opening day May 29 through June 1, the fair offers all manner of family fun and entertainment, as well as a great opportunity to come out and support the community.
That support ties in with this year's theme of "I am the champion, hear me roar," as the fair salutes all of the youth exhibitors competing and adding their talents to the program, demonstrating their skills at the many livestock shows, the exhibit halls and at the Junior Livestock Auction.
Aside from entertainment, the fair celebrates the best in the county, and strives to preserve its rich agricultural heritage and welcome the entire community.
"We're all about family values and having a family-fun, safe atmosphere," said Robert Williamson, CEO and fair manager. "I invite everyone to come and see the different exhibits and the shows for all ages. The fair's a great opportunity for our community to come out and support each other."
A review of everything on offer explains why the fair goes on for four days. Between the carnival rides, entertainment, speedway events, livestock shows and auction, exhibits, cookout contests and so many food choices, one day just wouldn't be enough to take it all in.
Most of the crowd favorites are back, and new attractions just up the ante for a good time. This year, fairgoers should be prepared for an entire new layout of the fairgrounds, with the kiddie carnival at a new location underneath the trees toward the back of the fair, offering more shade and cooler temperatures.
Several acts and activities are new to the entertainment side of the experience, including the Birdman, an interactive show that features eagles, macaws, pelicans, falcons and a 10-foot wingspan condor, among others.
With bird stars famous from their appearance on "Late Night with David Letterman," the show promises natural behaviors and free-flying avian wonders.
The new Family Fun Zone is the site of three new additions, including circus imagination, pig races and pedal tractor pulls. Circus Imagination offers the younger set a chance to "clown around" in clown-like activities with Tina the Tightrope Walker and Zazelle the Human Cannonball, and to join the circus for a day.
It may be difficult to keep a straight face during the fast and funny pig races, where the specialties are flat-track racing and hurdling.
Back by popular demand, the pedal tractor pull gives children ages 4 to 12 a chance to ride custom painted tractors of various sizes sporting tall, deep-tread tires.
The Undead Bettys return for flat-track roller derby. This team focuses on providing a fun sport that promotes fitness and the empowerment of women. A new entertainment option this year is that the skating rink will be open to the public during fair hours, with rental skates available.
Vaudevillian Skip Banks and Jeremy the Juggler will wow fans with their tricks, while each night the main stage will feature acts to keep fairgoers out after dark. The lineup begins Thursday with Paperback Writer Tribute to the Beatles and Rodeo House; Friday with headliner Foghat; Saturday featuring Life in the Fastlane: A Tribute to the Eagles and the Spazmatics; and ending Sunday with live Hispanic musical entertainment.
The speedway at the grandstands will again be the site for trailer races and jet cars on Friday night and stock car races on Saturday.
As far as exhibits go, there's something for every taste and interest, from cakes and pies and sewing crafts to photography, art and livestock.
Sunday morning, fairgoers can come out and support youths at the annual Junior Livestock Auction, where all manner of farm yard animals and livestock will be sold.
"We've increased from last year when we had a record number at our auction as far as sales goes," Williamson said. "Hopefully, we can get that record broken this year."
Several promotions have been set up to encourage attendance. New this year is one to celebrate the 100th year of Little League, allowing youths wearing their jerseys on Thursday free admittance. Three for Free, also on Thursday, provides free entrance with three cans of foods that gets donated back to the food bank.
"Thursday is Seniors Day, and a salute to our military and our first dollar ride day with all rides just $1. Friday is Kid's Day with kids 12 years and under free," Williamson said.
Williamson hopes fair fans will consider donating to the new Heritage Foundation, a nonprofit started this year with the purpose of offsetting some of the revenue lost after losing state funding. The goal is to use donated funds to improve the fairgrounds, starting with the revitalization of the 4-H camping restrooms, completed this year.
Williamson hopes this year's attendance will top the 55,000 from 2013.
What: Contra Costa County Fair
When: May 29-June 1
Where: County Fairgrounds, 1201 West 10th St., Antioch
Details: 925-757-4400 or visit www.contracostafair.com