Collectors and creators eager to display models, action figures, heirlooms and prize possessions scooped up nearly all available display cases on Saturday, move-in day for collectors at the Kern County Fair, leaving mere scraps for late comers the next morning.
Family obligations had kept sports fan Tony Reyna of Shafter busy the previous day — but the siren song of the fair’s centennial edition drew him near the Hobby Pavilion around 9 a.m. Sunday.
Having spent the last year and a half massing sports collectibles, Reyna became the last collector to claim space in the hobby pavilion — a four-shelf display case he split with sons Alex and Adam.
Their vinyl action figures and toys went on the bottom; his collectibles — including a Walter Payton Wheaties cereal box sold only in Chicago, a Mr. T ‘Clubber’ Lang doll from “Rocky III,” and USC and UCLA-themed Jell-O Jigglers molds — went on the top three shelves.
It was a close call, he admitted, despite reserving space ahead of time.
“Usually I’m here on a Saturday but my little one, he had a football game and my other son had a birthday party,” Reyna said, describing himself as “relieved that we got something.”
“If it would have been a few minutes later, he would have lost it,” said Charles Riley, a co-chair and 39-year fair worker, noting a reservation only guaranteed your spot would be held through 8 p.m. Saturday.
The fair, he noted, was able to secure roughly four additional display cases late Saturday bringing the total to 103, housing roughly 180 collections.
Other exhibits included yarn sculptures and Lego dioramas built from donated blocks by children of Bakersfield Homeless Center clients.
Super hero action figures remained popular, and historical artifacts ranging from vintage matchbooks from local businesses to a model of the Beale Memorial Clock Tower.
“I want them to look at it the way I do. When I look at this, I get the happiness of nostalgia. And I do see it as art,” said Eric Burrow, describing the reaction he hopes visitors will have as he arranged a display of Harley Quinn and the Joker figures picked in honor of this summer’s “Suicide Squad” movie.
“It’s who you are. You get to tell a little bit about what you do,” Riley added.
The Reynas’ display wasn’t the only family affair, either. Nearby, fair employee Aaron Eaton, who won Best of Show in 2014 with fiancee Marie for their rock and fossil collection, showed a variety of fair memorabilia.
On the same row, three generations of his family came down to tend display cases.
His mother Jearldine Lee laid out a half-dozen giant bunches of those clear resin or plastic table grapes that once decorated so many tables.
“My mom had these and my grandmother had these on their tables,” she said — noting these weren’t their grapes, but others she’d painstakingly found.
Lee’s sister Betty Lilly, a motorcycle enthusiast with a Honda Shadow at home, set up her doll collection — examples from her Bratz and Barbie collection, some dressed in miniature motorcycle jackets, along with lifelike examples of President Barack Obama and the First Lady, and former President George H.W. Bush.
Nearby a third sister, Marie Moten, and niece, Lashanay Mitchell, minded Mitchell’s young children, who darted through the aisles.
They were part of the reason for this year’s display, Lee said: “To see the expressions on their faces. I can’t wait to bring them.”
The second-to-last entrant, Bakersfield resident Alyshia Kizer, an avid cupcake baker, squeaked in ahead of Reyna with her display of a mixer, piping gun, frosting bag and tips, and recipe books.
“I don’t even know why I do it,” Kizer said of her exhibit, as she left with mother Leslie Manning. Until the fair ends Oct. 2, she’ll be making far fewer cupcakes.
“We were just talking about that,” Manning said. “It’s going to cramp her style.”