Both of Katie Redfeairn's young sons had done their part by raising pigs and selling them at the Kern County Fair. How could she deny them the pleasure of what she called "the dreaded ride day?"

On Thursday, she sprang for two $30 wristbands allowing each of them to get on as many rides as they liked. And from the looks on their faces as they got off the kids' roller coaster, they were enjoying every minute.

"Kern County Fair is definitely something you have to go to," Redfeairn said. "It's just, like, tradition."

Make that a family tradition. It turns out few fairs in the state make as big a deal of making sure kids have a good time.

With almost three dozen rides geared specifically toward children, the Kern County Fair offers more of these attractions than almost any other fair in California, according to Butler Amusements Inc., the Fairfield company that supplies and operates kids' rides in Kern and 25 other annual fairs.

Only two Butler events host more than Kern does: the California State Fair in Sacramento and the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton, Butler reports.

Even more rides

In recent years, the emphasis on kids' rides led the fair to increase the amount of space set aside for such activities by 40,000 square feet. That has allowed the fair to increase its number of kids' rides by 30 percent.

Kern County Fair CEO Mike Olcott said the decision to bring in more kids' rides reflects a couple of realities. For one thing, he said, about 60 percent of all ride tickets sold at the fair are for kids' rides. And unlike the situation in Los Angeles and Orange counties, the Kern County Fair is the only amusement park around.

"I think Central Valley fairs are like the Disneyland of the Central Valley," he said. "It's affordable. It's in their back yard."

Charlie Phillips brought his wife and two children to the kids carnival area on Thursday. He goes to the fair almost daily because of his involvement in its livestock aspect. The rides are a welcome change of pace, and he said the kids love it.

"You're not going to have Mickey Mouse here, but they don't know the difference," he said. "Just hometown goodness, know what I mean?"

Just like back home

Maria Rodriquez brings her three children to the fair every year, in part because it reminds them and her of the carnival in Santa Cruz, where they used to live.

After coming down the big slide, her kids were already eyeing their next destinations: the caterpillar ride, the Ferris wheel and the miniature train.

It isn't just about the rides for daughter Yariktza Coronado, 13. She also enjoys the cotton candy and the smells of the fair — the food, she said, and the dry grass, adding "I feel happy."

Her younger brother, Jencarlos Coronado, 8, wasn't picky.

"I like the candy and the rides," he said.

John Cox can be reached at 661-395-7404. Follow him on Twitter: @TheThirdGraf.

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