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Contra Costa County fair kicks off 82nd year

ANTIOCH — The aromas of barbecue and Mexican food filled the air at one end of the Contra Costa County Fairgrounds, while cotton candy and kettle corn took their rightful place on the other.
Ahhhh. Those unmistakable, familiar smells could only mean one thing: the annual fair is back — for the 82nd time. And so is the fun. On opening day Thursday young children enjoyed the Ferris wheel and carnival games, while those a bit older took to the faster, gleaming pink and yellow roller coasters. The bravest and most adventurous patrons sat in black seats strapped to a bright yellow tower with flashing colorful lights, rising slowly 77 feet into the sky. Just when they could catch a glimpse of the fair and surrounding areas — the bottom dropped out and down they came, screaming all the way.
“We’re very much a small community fair. We don’t necessarily have big entertainment, but lots of great family-oriented entertainment,” said Joe Brengle, CEO of the Contra Costa County Fair. “Just kind of a nice family atmosphere.”
Many fair-goers said they enjoyed the diversity of food options — including Polish hot dogs, Mexican food and Hawaiian barbecue. Others said they liked this fair for its small size and welcoming, family atmosphere.
And while it might not rival others in size, producers of the popular television show “Carnival Eats” chose to feature it on their Food Network show.
“There’s always going to be the giant state fairs, there’s always going to be those locations that are acres big and have sponsored fancy zones by big businesses, but for me I still love the smaller kind of community-driven fairs that have a history, and this fair, to me, is one of those,” said Noah Cappe, host of the show. “I think we chose it because it’s just another glimpse into a part of the country that not everybody gets to see, but that really shows what these fairs are all about — community history, tradition, bringing people together and just having a few days to let the belt buckle loose.”
Cappe said the show aims to spotlight fairs that are unique or have a “wow factor,” as well as give a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes aspect of county and state fairs.
“It’s about putting a spotlight on the world of carnival food because it’s changed. …I think a lot of people think of it as cotton candy and popcorn and all those classics, but these people out here now with culinary backgrounds and chef jackets that they’ve earned. There’s a real kind of passion,” Cappe said. “It’s just about shining a light on the food, the people, the industry.”
In addition to the foods and rides, the fair features a carnival midway, chainsaw carving and cowgirl tricks demonstrations. livestock and other attractions for young and old.  Several parents said they attend the fair because it’s a fun and inexpensive place to take their children.
Kameron Morrissey, a lifelong Antioch resident and fair-attendee, said it’s a fun place to “hang out with my kid and just try to have some fun.”
Danny Emmons, an Oakley resident, agreed, adding he and his 10-year-old son have enjoyed the fair for years because of his son’s participation in 4-H, a global youth organization that gives kids ages 5 to 18 experience in agricultural and leadership projects.
The Contra Costa County Fair will be open until through Sunday. More information about hours, location and ticket prices can be found at contracostafair.com .

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