When the Santa Cruz County Fair opened Wednesday, Watsonville resident Manuel Monroy was one of the first ones through the gate, his 3-year-old son Leo at his side for the boy’s first fair experience.
The popular All Alaskan Pig Races, a visit to the livestock exhibits and a large bag of cotton candy were on their agenda.
The annual trip has been a tradition Monroy wanted to pass on to his son.
“I’ve been coming since I was a kid,” he said.
The bag of brightly colored, light-as-air confection was not the only food option the father-son duo had to choose from, not by a country mile.
One of the biggest draws for many visitors is the various food booths offering such choices as roasted meat, locally made pies and hot dogs in numerous states of existence, from the utilitarian on-the-stick variety to the street-food-inspired bacon-wrapped type.
If fairgoers are interested in the latter, it may behoove them to pay a visit to Hot Doggin’ Gourmet Hot Dogs. This booth has been a part of the California State Fair in Sacramento for 20 years and is making its Santa Cruz County debut. Here, one can also find various forms of tater tots, including “Totchos,” inspired by the south-of-the-border dish its name suggests.
And, of course, there are the deep-fried foods, including the ever-popular breaded Oreo cookie, which, while perhaps not altogether healthy, is worth a once-a-year delve into decadence.
When food is out of the way, visitors can also check out the animals and produce exhibits, which ostensibly is the reason for the Fair in the first place, and beautifully showcases the year-round work by the agricultural community that puts food on tables across the nation and employs thousands of people locally.
There are also numerous entertainment options, which run throughout the day.
The Santa Cruz County Fair runs through Sunday, Sept. 18. santacruzcountyfair.com.