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Once, a long time ago, Monterey was the capital of California, before it became a state. Parts of the county became San Benito County as we know it today. Monterey is one of California’s most scenic counties, seated along the Pacific Coast Highway. I rode my Fuji Touring Bike down the coast to Monterey County a few years back, and loved it so much there, I extended my stay a few extra days in Big Sur. Monterey is well known for its shopping district, Cannery Row and its legendary golf courses.

In a word, the entire county is majestic. 75 years ago, Monterey County held its first county fair, and the fair’s still going strong today.

monterey county fair

Monterey County Fair

This year, the fair features a massive ferris wheel, a rodeo, free wine tasting, and an ice cream and cupcake eating contest, and its attracted some major entertainment. Blue Oster Cult, War, Lynyrd Synyrd cover band, Nuthin Fancy, and Steely Dan are all performing during the five-day fair. The fair closes on Monday, September 5, 2011.

In its history, Monterey County fair has been home to legendary performers such as Duke Ellington, Billy Dean, Carlos Santana, Dave Brubeck, Sarah Vaughn, Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix.

Monterey County Fair

Monterey County Fair

We visited the fair on Saturday – we hadn’t thought about Labor Day weekend traffic, and left Sacramento at 11:00 a.m., planning to arrive at the fairground around 3:00 p.m. We actually didn’t arrive until 5:30 p.m., but were still in good spirits, despite a very long, congested drive. The fairgrounds, like the rest of Monterey County, are beautiful. With an ocean breeze, and nestled in giant oak trees, the fairground offers serene surroundings with a jolt of fun. View our photos of our day at the fair in Monterey.

2011 Monterey County Fair

Food Stands at the 2011 Monterey County Fair

Needless to say, the first thing on our minds when we arrived was food. Naturally, we planned to sample a few food stands anyway, so as soon as we were inside the gate, we started browsing stands.

Big Bubba's Bad BBQ

Big Bubba's Bad BBQ at the Monterey County Fair

We decided to have lunch at Big Bubba’s Bad BBQ; read the review in another blog post.

The fairgrounds were filled to the brim with attendees, but there is plenty of seating and tables throughout the fairground. The weather was perfect, so we took our time at Bubba’s before venturing out to browse the vendors.

Eating at the Monterey County Fair

Eating at the Monterey County Fair

Some of the best food vendors in California attend the Monterey County Fair each year, and this one was no different. People enjoyed everything from Kettle Korn, to Funnel Cakes, to steak sandwiches, ethnic foods, ice creams and desserts, frosties, and specialty drinks.

Country Fair Cinnamon Rolls

Country Fair Cinnamon Rolls at the Monterey County Fair

As we made our way over to the amusement stands and rides, we came across the Country Fair Cinnamon Rolls stand, and stopped by for a cinnamon roll. It was great to see them at the fair, catching up since we last saw them at the California State Fair in July.

Helm and Sons Amusements brings more than 30 rides to the Monterey County Fair this year, so be prepared for a very full day, if you’re bringing the kids along. Expect a haunted house, a giant ferris wheel, merry-go-rounds, the infamous Tilt-a-Whirl, the Zipper, the Tornado and more. Between the rides and the games, it’s amazing anyone finds time to eat… but they do.

Like two kids drawn by the colors, lights and sounds, we browsed the rides and games. It was kids day at the fiar – though fun for all ages, and this day had no shortage them.

We were surrounded by kids at every turn, with some spinning around from suspended carriages over our heads. The looks of amazement, and joy brought back a lot of good memories. Of course, we got a lot of great photos while we were there, and Andrew even did some rock climbing. Time stood still, yet flew by while at the fair. Before we knew it, we had been there for a few hours and the sun was setting. One thing is certain, the Monterey County Fair lived up to its reputation for being a fun-filled destination.

Pepe's Mariscos at the Monterey County Fair

Pepe's Mariscos at the Monterey County Fair

After Andrew’s heroic attempt at a $300 reward on the rock, we decided to make one more food stop at Pepe’s Mariscos, owned by JLQ Concessions before heading home. We were in for a long drive back to Sacramento, and dinner at the fair seemed like a pretty good idea. We had the beautiful California coastline and scenery to look at driving down to Monterey, but the ride home would be dark, and very long. A Mexican taqueria seemed like the perfect prelude to the trek north.

Read our review of Pepe’s Mariscos to find out how it turned out.

Covering 22 acres, the Monterey County Fair’s agricultural shows, outstanding entertainment, food and amusement can’t be missed. The fair is well-known for its creative entertainment, including hypnotists, gymnastics, karaoke, and of course for hosting nationally known musical talents.

Over 75,000 people from all around California attend the fair every year. This fair is deeply integrated into the heritage of Monterey County and a large part of Monterey history.

The Monterey County Fair closes on Monday, September 5, 2011. Stop by before it ends and “horse around at the Monterey County Fair“.

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About the Author

Rodney Washington is a Creative Marketing Strategist who helps creative service professionals gain attention and increase sales. His goal in life: to end the famine that plagues starving artists across the country. Rodney is a contributing writer to art and lifestyle blogs and has written two books.