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The Faces Behind the Great Kern County Fair

The county fair is as American as baseball and homemade apple pie, and it's a rite of passage for kids to spend a day enjoying its attractions. The quintessential fair day: eating sugary, sticky cotton candy, riding carnival rides that spin way too fast, throwing balls at milk cans to win a stuffed animal, and taking in the local flavor with exhibits and people-watching. The Great Kern County Fair runs from September 23 through October 4 and is featuring new and exciting attractions.

"We've put our focus on providing the best family entertainment we can and offering it all for the price of admission to the fair," says Bill Blair, KC Fair CEO. Admission prices will remain at last year's level at only $8 for adults, $3 for children six to 12, and free for children ages five and under. For an even better deal, families can purchase advance tickets at a discount online and at Albertson's.

One of this year's new attractions is The Nerveless Nocks' death-defying, high-wire act that features the "Globe of Death," a huge globe in which motorcyclists perform their daredevil stunts while locked inside. Another newcomer is Dr. Solar, an award-winning magician, ventriloquist, and puppeteer, and Master Hypnotist Tina Marie. As always, free concerts will take place each night at the Budweiser Pavilion.

The Kern County Fair's Board of Directors is the faces behind these fair events. They spend countless hours making sure the public has an enjoyable time and operations run smoothly. Most of them grew up attending the fair, and now, they take their own children and grandchildren to share in the festivities. Board members include James Camp, president, Nancy Wheeler-Smith, vice-president, and directors Cesar Chavez, Les Clark, Karen DeWalt, Kay Meek, Mike Olcott, Janice Smith, and Steve Smoot.

Director Les Clark says the best part of the fair is watching families enjoy all the activities and exhibits the fair has to offer. The father of three and grandfather of nine says his family enjoys the rodeo, livestock, and the midway. He's participated in fair activities his whole life. He has even received a sweepstakes ribbon for a "City of Taft" exhibit.

This year, he says the fair will bring many new opportunities for families to enjoy themselves. "Each year the fair works very hard to bring new attractions to the community. Expect to see new and different entertainment venues as well as technology attractions," he says.

A board member for eight years, he was originally appointed by Governor Davis. He is currently executive vice president of the Independent Oil Producers' Agency and serves on many other community boards.

Director Karen DeWalt's claim to fame at the Kern County Fair was being named "Miss Livestock." While in high school, she made it into the final ten for the title of Miss Kern County sponsored by the Board of Trade. Each of the top ten finalists was named after a branch of the fair. Her duties as "Miss Livestock" included her picture taken with the champion pig, lamb, steer, and a welcome speech at the auction.

Growing up in Kern County, Karen remembers going to the fair with her aunt and always coming home with a pet goldfish. Nowadays, she loves seeing her grandchildren enjoy the fair's entertainment. Her favorites include corn on the cob, baked potatoes, and entertainment at the Budweiser Pavilion.

A board member for approximately five years, she was appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger from a recommendation by Congressman Kevin McCarthy.

Director Kay Meek says the Kern County Fair has always been part of her family. She grew up enjoying the fair and its attractions. She says she can never remember not attending the fair, and she's carried on the tradition with her family.

Her grandchildren told her what they enjoy most about the fair is the 4-H and FAA exhibits, especially the pigs, cows, goats, and sheep. The livestock and community exhibits are her favorites, too.

"We call it The Great Kern County Fair, because it really is The Great Kern County Fair," she says. "The fair provides a lot of history and diversification. There is something for every age group and every walk of life."

A board member for 15 years, she was first appointed by Governor Pete Wilson. She also serves as a Trustee on the Kern Community College District and is a retired bank executive.

Director Mike Olcott participated in the fair every year as a child. He even won first place for a painting he entered his senior year at Bakersfield High School.

He has a few fair food favorites: a pickled tongue sandwich at the Basque Club, a BBQ deep pit sandwich at Strasner's BBQ, and a pastrami hamburger at the Fireman's Booth. This father of three says his children enjoy visiting the birthing corral, attending concerts, riding amusement rides, and eating funnel cakes.

A board member for four years, he was appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger. As co-owner of Olcotts, a family retail store, he says he enjoys serving on the fair board. "I feel that serving within the local community is vital to building lasting relationships and a sense of pride for Bakersfield and the county," he says. "If I can give back to the county that has supported so many worthy causes, then I welcome the opportunity to serve on the fair board."

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