The hottest ticket in town this week and next is the Kern County Fair, but for once the weather doesn't match.
"This is probably the best we'll ever have," fair CEO Mike Olcott said of the weather, with a high of 86 expected on opening day.
With temperatures in the 80s remaining the next two days, this is a prime time to get out to the fairgrounds.
After 103 years, the fair continues to offer many tried and true favorites — carnival, exhibits, the photo booths and decadent food — but there's plenty of fresh fun to be had this time around.
During a media preview Wednesday, attendees tried two new concession items: lobster fries and Dole whip with Tajin and chamoy. The fries offer a generous portion of fried lobster served with a chipotle aioli over a basket of fries. The item goes for $13.95 but you can super-size to a bucket of fries for $17.95.
The concession, Sharky's Fish Fry, will also serve shrimp fries and other fried seafood as well as elote fries ($10.95), combining the popular Mexican-style corn with fried potatoes.
Over at OMG! Ice Cream, samples of spiced-up Dole whip were served on media day. At $6, that's a nice option to cut the sweetness but if your sweet tooth knows no limits, check out the extreme gold-plated ice cream ($20), featuring edible 24-karat gold, or the Instagram-ready extreme unicorn shake ($14), which is served in a small unicorn pool float.
Other hot items on tap are the fried chicken skins (Eat at Joe's), artichoke sandwich (Jeanne's Artichokes), deep-fried cheesecake (Sweet Cheeks) and mega dog, a 2-foot-long, 2-pound corn dog (West Coast Weenies).
Speaking of new food, you can snack on some insects as part of Pacific Animal Productions' Bug Ology 1-0-Fun exhibit. Housed in Building 1, Bug Ology is described as an immersive, interactive walk-through exhibit that takes visitors to the bayou, the rainforest or, perhaps the most formidable destination, a classroom. Focusing on education and outreach, informed guides offer a look at the small creatures that populate our world.
Along with viewing insect and arachnids on display, fairgoers can actually sample freeze-dried insects at the Bug Bar. The United States lags behind other countries in embracing the sustainable protein of insects but you can turn the tide sampling some seasoned with a variety of flavors, including pizza, curry, lasagna and cotton candy. (Based on a sample, the insects taste mostly like the spices with a roasted almond texture so it's more a mind-over-matter situation than worrying about the taste.)
Now, let me "ax" you a question: Would you like to try something brand-new at the fair? L.A. PartyWorks has brought its mobile ax-throwing trailer to this year's fair. The set-up safely accommodates two throwers aiming small axes at a wooden bull's-eye. During the preview, participants got to throw a few times trying to land on the target but be prepared your turn will not be unlimited.
Some popular exhibits and entertainment have moved this year so depending on your interests, follow along.
The Frontier Stage has moved nearest the Union Avenue entrance. All Gospel Day performances on Saturday will take place on that stage as well as the numerous country music tributes: Tim McGraw (Thursday), Garth Brooks (Friday), Jason Aldean (Sept. 26), George Strait (Sept. 27) and Kenny Chesney (Sept. 28).
That area is also home to the aforementioned ax throwing as well as a mechanical bull and giant yard games.
In the stage's former home near the adult carnival, the Midway Food Court is set up. Offering shade and additional seating, the spot is surrounded by a number of concessions, including OMG! and another ice cream vendor, PHD & Me pretzels — serving a new crispy cheese option this year — kettle korn, Old West cinnamon rolls, a new Chinese food vendor and a beer booth run by Bakersfield Police Activities League.
In another move, the photography and children's art exhibits have been moved down to Building 4 (Home Arts), near the adult carnival, and the culinary arts contests have moved over to KC's Farmhouse off Harvest Lane.