Ha family at the fair

The Ha family at the Kern County Fair in 2009.

It’s a glorious September day in the Golden Empire. The sacchariferous smell of cotton candy fills the air in perfect harmony with joyous laughter from children on the classic Tilt-a-Whirl ride. Nearby, a spunky toddler with a high ponytail pours gilded kernels of corn into a Tonka truck on the Kern County Fairgrounds. Her baby brother tries his best to keep up with her as their parents supervise from atop a haystack.

That was our family’s first trip to the great Kern County Fair. And it would turn out to be the beginning of an annual family tradition of making memories.

Over the years, our little ones have ridden plush stationary bulls, petted adorable baby goats, marveled at magic shows, taken home blue ribbons in photography and soared over the sky on a surfeit of rides.

With all the live concerts at the fair, we’ve been able to introduce the kids to artists we grew up with such as The Bangles, Salt-N-Pepa and Air Supply. It seems the fair brings out the kid in all of us. Last year, my typically reserved husband broke out in a lip sync serenade, silently belting out, “I’m all out of love, I’m so lost without you,” as he relived the ’80s.

When it comes to fair food, sometimes you just have to indulge. Knowing this debauchery only occurs once a year, I throw caution to the wind and get in line for all things battered and fried.

A tantalizing corn dog from the East Bakersfield DeMolay booth comes with zero guilt since it supports a local worthy cause. And a piping hot, straight-from-the-fryer funnel cake topped with fresh Bavarian cream plus a generous dollop of whipped cream hits the spot year after year.

The Kern County Fair may not have the acreage of Six Flags Magic Mountain or the attendance of the Disneyland parks, but there’s just something special about our local playground.

For more than a century, the Kern County Fair has brought us together as a community.

Local television reporters and radio DJs broadcast live while highlighting unique attractions. Fairgoers of all ages can check out the animals that 4H Club students have been painstakingly caring for over the past year. The fair is also the best place to share a kiss with your loved one at the top of the Ferris wheel while overlooking our beautiful city.

Being present and active in Bakersfield allows us to feel the pulse of our community, which is coming into its own now more than ever.

So whether you’re a carnival games pro or just want to check out the local talent onstage, there’s something for everyone at the fair.

You could run into old friends, win the best homemade chili contest or even start an annual family tradition.

You might also see our family there, making new memories of our own. 

Opinions expressed in this column are those of Nina Ha.

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