If you’ve been to the fair even once in your life, you already have a list of favorites to check out. But we’ve compiled a list of the best of the new — and a couple of returning traditions — you should add to your itinerary.
1 Egyptian Wildlife Exhibit/Live Shark Encounters/High Dive:
The fair has at least one doozy of an attraction every year, and the Egyptian exhibit certainly fits the bill. Exotic animals from North Africa and interactive displays and games will get the young ones off the rides and into a tent for a few minutes. Not quite as impressive but still diverting are the shark tank and high dive, where a guy plunges the equivalent of eight stories into a pool below; let’s hope the shark isn’t in it!
2 Parade of the Grand Champions:
It’s no surprise Kern County has the largest junior livestock exhibit in the state. We’ve never strayed far from our rural roots. And though anytime is a good time to view the animals out in the barns, the fair’s first Sunday afternoon, starting around 5, is all about the kids, and we don’t mean the four-legged variety. The best of the best will be present in the auction barn for the selection of the overall Grand Champion and Reserve Grand Champion. “It’s a big moment,” said fair CEO Mike Olcott. “When they pick the actual winners and talk to the kids and hand the kids the belt buckle and banner, that’s huge.”
3 Rachel Platten:
Sometimes the fair circuit, a mainstay of yesteryear acts (no offense, Grand Funk Railroad), books an artist on the cusp of breaking big. File Platten under that category. Her “Fight Song” is literally everywhere, from its use as a rallying cry in the fight against cancer to car commercials. Platten performs at 8 p.m. Oct. 1. As with all concerts, it’s free with fair admission. Other notable acts: Hinder, For King and Country, Boyz II Men and the Commodores, the latter of which kicks off the Bud Pavilion entertainment on opening night.
4 Grape Stomping Contest:
You stomp grapes! That’s pretty much a drop-the-mic sentence, but if you need more inducement, the stomper who generates the most juice with his or her hooves, wins a prize. As if squishing grapes between your toes weren’t prize enough! No word on whether you have to drink said juice. The contests are on Saturdays in front of Building 4.
5 Wine slushies:
Leave the stomping and mixology to the professionals and sip on a wine slushie, the fair’s new adult beverage. The icy drinks are available from two concessions: Mac’s Patio in red and white, and Fiesta Concessions’ four locations in fruit-packed white zinfandel, pinot grigio and sangria. Don’t get too excited drinking them lest you risk a brain freeze. Of course after one or two, you might not care.
6 Chopped contests:
Fans of the popular Food Network show “Chopped” can enjoy a front-row seat to the local version in two contests challenging chefs to prepare a dish with mystery ingredients. The first, on Friday, pits three Bakersfield College culinary students against one another as they vie for scholarship cash. On Sept. 28, three professional chefs go head to head for bragging rights with Bakersfield Country Club executive chef Robert Alimirzaie as emcee. Both contests take place at 6 p.m. in the Home Arts area of Building 4.
7 Pizza bombs:
There’s always a place selling pizza but contending with a sloppy slice doesn’t sound like a good time. The pizza bomb blows up this idea, baking the sauce, cheese and pepperoni in a ball of pizza dough. These spherical self-contained pizza universes aren’t likely to make a mess unless you spill the sauce that comes on the side — and that’s between you and your fancy fair duds.
8 Deep-fried flan:
If you’re doing the fair right, something you ingest will be fried in oil. Corn dogs, funnel cake, cheese curds, spiral fries — something has been deep-fried specifically for your delight. But if you’re a true connoisseur, you’re looking for something new. Noel’s has you covered with the deep-fried flan. Combining a cool, creamy custard with hot dough, this treat should deliver a unique taste sensation.
9 Baked potato:
Everyone has their go-to fair food. For many, it is the DeMolay corn dog but a close second has to be the Boy Scouts baked potato. You can get a spud at any decent steakhouse and diner for miles around, so why this tuber? Something about the combination of ingredients (the “Works” is chili, cheese, green onion, bacon and sour cream) and the plucky attitude of the volunteers — Scouts and friends alike — sells that spud better than any carny ever could.
10 New rides:
There are six this year, with half in the safe-for-tots column — Berry Go Round, Dizzy Dragon, Raiders — and half in the eat-after-you-ride column — Inversion, Crazy Train and Quasar.
11 Craft Beer Garden:
We’re not going to lie: This one made the list only because it’s new and because it seems like any festival of any kind is almost contractually obligated to offer craft beer these days. In any case, 24 craft beers from 12 breweries will be featured on both Fridays of the fair, from 6 to 10 p.m. in the Bolthouse Courtyard. It’s 10 bucks for four 4-ounce samples or one 16-ouncer. The only local brew is from Temblor Brewing Company. So craft beer. You’ve been told.