It's that winning time of year again. August, when the Humboldt County Fair brings the usual county fair goodness to the Ferndale Fairgrounds for 11 days. You'll find the usual carnie games, Ferris wheel, cotton candy, corndogs and other meats on sticks, along with 4-H kids in white outfits with green hats and scarves and FFA kids in blue jackets leading prized sheep, calves and goats or carrying exotic rabbits and chickens.
For many, the opportunity to bet on live horse races is the major attraction. Once-a-year gamblers scream and whoop as jockeys in bright silk outfits astride thundering steeds plunge neck-and-neck for the finish line and glory. Dreams of big wins -- longshots, exactas, daily doubles and trifectas -- drift in and out like discarded racing slips.
The fair folks promise "eight action-packed days of racing" with thoroughbred, quarterhorse, appaloosa and Arabian horses and unpredictable mules, plus simulcast pari-mutuel wagering on races on other tracks. Live race post time is 2 p.m. daily except Fridays when they start late, at 3 p.m. If you want to see the ponies run, it's important to remember that the fair runs 11 days, but races are only on eight days.
Since the horses are such a major draw, everyone gets in free on days without races. That includes Opening Day Thursday, Aug. 11, a day when they have Lawn Mower Demonstration Races on the track in front of the grandstand (6:30 p.m.) instead. Monday and Tuesday, Aug. 15 and 16, are also no horse racing/no admission days.
What might you do those days (or before or after the races)? Maybe check out the flower show, the fine arts gallery or the photo show off the commercial building, where you'll find folks selling fudge, cowboy hats and hot tubs among other things. Stop by the ag buildings for a reminder that Humboldt is still farm country. See who won ribbons for the best jams, pickles, quilts or wines. Grab a bite to eat, anything from deep-fried artichokes and Asian BBQ to Cheryl Seidner Indian Tacos, or pulled pork sandwiches (benefiting the Arcata Endeavor). And be sure to check out the Ferndale Elementary Eighth Grade's hot pretzel cart donated by Food Network superstar Guy Fieri, a former local who got his start at our county fair.
The Midway Stage, just outside the back entrance to the racetrack, is local music central most evenings starting at 5:30. Opening day they have Jimi Jeff and The Gypsy Band with Hendrix tunes, funk and blues. Friday, Aug. 12, it's country veterans The Roadmasters; Saturday, Aug. 13, St. John and the Sinners' Fleetwood Mac tribute, Mirage. Sorry, no music Sundays. Jimi Jeff returns Monday, Aug. 15; Mario Matteoli and his band play folk/rock/Americana on Tuesday, Aug. 16 and Thursday, Aug. 18; in-between on Wednesday, Aug. 17, The Uptown Kings lay down the blues. Next weekend, Friday, Aug. 19, K-BAE or All Hits 95.5 -- whatever they're calling themselves now -- the DJs are hosting an evening of karaoke. Finally, Saturday Aug. 20, it's the "hot dance band" Taxi.
Other entertainment at the fair: From opening day until Aug. 17, you'll find Chaz Marquette, Unicycle Man, "rolling and strolling" on various unicycles including one 22 feet tall. Matt Baker mixes stand-up comedy with silly stunts involving lettuce and cue balls three times a day Aug. 11-14 on the Midway Stage. Balloon Man Skip Banks takes over Aug. 15-17 doing tricks with a giant balloon and donning an inflatable super-fat Elvis suit for laughs. Then next weekend, Aug. 18-21, John Shaw and Lady Diabla: Original Synners Stunt Show Spectacular fills the same basic slot with comedy, magic and side show stunts. They alternate with hypnotist Susan Rosen, "Mistress of Mesmerism," also Aug. 18-21.
For animalistic action you have Brad's World Reptiles Creature Features offering "cold-blooded fun" with snakes and gators daily Aug.11-16, followed by Welde's Big Bear Show, which is pretty much self-explanatory -- bears, big ones, putting on a show -- from Aug. 18-21.
There's also music, dancing etc. every day on the stage at Friendship Square by the old schoolhouse/museum. Among the many acts: the always wonderful Humboldt County Kitchen-Aires (with cooking utensil instruments), Humboldt Accordionaires, Shoshanna's bellydancers, the step dancing Emerald Coast Irish Dancers, Sam McNeill's young Academy Fiddlers, McKinleyville Community Choir, The Eel River Rangers, Blue Slide Reunion, a talent show from Cutten Elementary, the Monument Middle School Champion Cheerleaders from Rio Dell, and a Hog Calling Contest. They even have a non-denominational church service Sunday morning. Check www.humboldtcountyfair.org for times and dates.
Aside from the above-mentioned free days, general admission to the115th Annual Humboldt County Fair is $8, with seniors (62 and up) $6, kids (6-12) $4, under 6 free. Senior Day, Friday, Aug. 12, means older folks get in free; and kids are free on Children's Day, Thursday, Aug. 18.
Incidentally, track admission is an additional $3 on racing days, with a couple of exceptions: Thursday, Aug. 18, is Jack Retzloff's Day at the Races with Jack's appraisal biz covering the three bucks and Friday, Aug. 19, Pierson Building Center pays your way into the track. And don't forget, parking is $2 per vehicle.