Fun has its cost |

Fun has its cost

With the economy down and unemployment up, a day at the Nevada County Fair could be a family budget-breaker.

But families throughout the region have found ways to both economize and have fun ” for some, making the fair a centerpiece of their summer entertainment.

More people than ever took advantage of advance sale discounts: People bought $51,000 in advance tickets, compared to spending $23,000 in 2007, fair publicist Wendy Oaks said.

For Emily Hays of Penn Valley, the free children’s activities and discounts for good students will draw her to visit up to three times this year, she said.

Daughter Natalie Hays, 5, enjoyed milking the fake cow and lassoing the metal steer head in Kids Corner, an area of free activities for small children that includes miniature tractor rides and banging farm equipment to make different sounds.

Hays parked on a nearby street and walked, saving on the parking fee. She also bought half-price carnival tickets ahead of time.

“I also saved by entering the contests online,” saving the $2 fee of a paper entry, Hays added. “There’s a lot of good, free entertainment. I really enjoy going through all the free exhibits.”

Debora Thomason and Holly Burt, both of Lake of the Pines, watched the giant Ferris wheel swoop their children in circles of blue, red, yellow and gold. The smell of popcorn, cigarettes and damp grass filled the evening air.

“I probably spent $70 or $80” to bring her two children to the fair, Thomason said; Burt spent a similar amount on her two, including food.

The cost could have been much higher, but the children ” like Natalie Hays ” earned good grades, landing them student scholar passes for free admission to the fairgrounds, discounts on carnival wristbands, free snow cones and free entry into arena events.

Parents were encouraged by a change in fair policy to make the student scholar discounted wristbands good for all day, instead of expiring at 6 p.m., Burt said.

The two friends also carpooled together, saving on gas and parking fees. They filled up water bottles at water stations set up around the fairgrounds.

“I used to go a couple of times to the fair, but now, I scaled it back to just one day ” all day,” Thomason added.

Colleen Jackson brought up her son Cody, 7, from Citrus Heights to spend the day with friends.

Compared to the state fair, where a Ferris wheel ride last year for Cody and his dad cost $15, the Nevada County event seemed like a bargain on various levels.

Jackson counted as Cody zipped around a track in a train shaped like a Chinese dragon.

“This one went around 10 times,” Jackson said. At a Sacramento carnival she sometimes visits, “they went around three times. We went to (Santa Cruz) Beach and Boardwalk, and they went around once!”

Seniors get in for $4. Children, people with disabilities, folks dressed as rodeo clowns and those in the military all enjoy specific days of free admission (active-duty with ID get in free today).

People buying at the Ag Mechanic or livestock auctions, and anyone entering a special food contest, also get in free on the days of their events.

(See for a schedule.)

Folks attending the Sunday worship service at 9 a.m. get in for $4.

Free parking is available at Nevada Union High School, and a shuttle costs $1 each way.

To contact City Editor Trina Kleist, e-mail or call 477-4230.

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