Flip upside down, meet ducks with comb-overs, see underwater robots, jam out to live bluegrass and try a cotton candy burrito at this weekend’s 69th annual Coconino County Fair.
Fair manager Ricky Conway said that this year they have “upped the ante” for fair-goers.
While efforts were spent on expanding the fair throughout the Fort Tuthill area for the last two years, this year the crew is bringing everything together and focusing on a larger presence within the fairgrounds itself.
“We have increased the scope of the main stage, added more vendors and more amusements,” Conway said. “I think the tweaks will add a better experience overall.”
There are some more technological additions to the fair too: motorized scooters are for rent, there is a virtual reality experience and building superintendents now use iPads to speed up voting processes.
But despite the technological advances, the fair brings its share of well-loved classics back to Flagstaff for some old-time fun.
Schools Day on Friday morning will see a slew of excited public, charter and home-school students descending onto the fairground.
The Schools Building will host the annual art showcase, where Flagstaff art teachers display the best work from elementary, middle or high school art programs. The judging took place Thursday afternoon by Fair Superintendent Debbie Mcroy with local artist Kaitlyn Roederer and help from Lynda Locke, an art educator and longtime teacher. Locke was trying not to step on African animal mask sculptures as she placed a first place ribbon on a Sinagua Middle School mural.
“We compare between the different mediums, and also the different school grades,” Locke said. The women had dozens of perspective pieces, watercolors, sculptures and sketches to select from.
Teachers can rest assured their students will be getting some learning in with an underwater robots demonstration at the Clubworks Building, silversmithing demonstrations at the Gems and Minerals Building, and water activities at the Kids for Conservation Tent. Later in the weekend, that tent will also be hosting birding, recycling, volcano and ecosystem activities.
4-H Youth Development once again brings a variety of animals for show and sale to the fair. You can spot several ducks with interesting hairstyles splashing around outside the animal houses. In the rabbit house, the Flemish Giants are, well, giant. Krystyna Jura, who has entered many rabbits through the years in the competition, noted that “the larger the rabbit, the longer they tend to live.”
The majority of the livestock shows take place on Friday with rabbits, pigs, goats, llamas, cows and sheep on display throughout the day. The Northern Arizona Junior Livestock Auction will take place Saturday afternoon, with 4H grooming and a llama costume show as highlights for Sunday. The Jr. Fair Awards at the Livestock Show Ring will take place Monday at 12:30 p.m.
The headlining musical acts for the weekend will be Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Bluegrass Band on Friday, rock band Winger on Saturday, Mariachi-esque Los Internaccionales Caminantes De Humberto Navarro on Sunday and the local bluegrass/rock group Nolan McKelvey Band on Monday.
Additional bands includes SolOverLuna, the Workingman’s Band, WEEZUS, the Reckless Band, Mike Reeves Band, Rhythm Edition and FoxyKoshka.
Magic group The Perceptives and unicycling stuntman Bob at Large will be featured throughout the weekend at the Variety stage. You might catch Dune Sea Garrison’s Star Wars characters strolling about the fairgrounds or run into April or Steve making their signature balloon animals.
After Hawaiian barbecue or a corned beef sandwich, make sure you save room for dessert. You can get the usual go-to fair treats, including funnel cakes, donuts, fried Oreos, shaved ice and fresh lemonade at concession stands.
If you are feeling adventurous, why not opt in for the cotton candy burrito? Flattened cotton candy tortillas wrapped around birthday cake ice cream made the “cotton candi-urrito” one of the most popular treats at the Arizona State Fair. “They were going like hot cakes,” said Conway of the Funnel Lot creation.
Some local vendors include Flagstaff Ice Cream and Arizona Roasting. For Friday only, a $5 Meal Deal including drink will be offered by vendors with a blue ribbon. Alcoholic beverages will also be available at the beer garden sponsored by Friends of Coconino County Park.
You’ll have to wait until your food has digested to take a spin in the Tilt-a-Whirl or a flip in the Zipper. All of last year’s 16 major rides are back, with a new addition. The Jumping Jumbo ride has both children and adults flying up and down on elephants.
Tami Duckworth, a manager with the fair’s vendor of 18 years, Browns Amusements, says The Freak Out has held its title as the most popular ride this year, especially among teenagers.
“It’s super spectacular. You can go upside down, back and forth like a pendulum, all while oscillating in different directions,” she said. But the 60-year-old’s choice for favorite ride is a little bit more relaxed. “I like to go up on the Gondola-wheel and see the layout of the fair,” she said.
Browns Amusements also offers 17 kiddie rides and dozens of game stands, including The Hi Striker, where you can test your strength, and Roller Derby, where you can race against your friends.
On Saturday and Sunday the 35th annual Demolition Derby will take place just a short walk from the fair entrance. Gates open at 11 a.m. and the event begins at noon.
Clint Bleeker, Flagstaff Sunrise Lion Club member and derby partner since 1984, said the derby is partaking in its second year of novice racing. “It was a huge success last year,” he said of the Saturday event.
The novice race is open to anyone who hasn’t competed professionally before. Teens who just got their license compete with 70-year-olds who have spent 40 hours of work prepping their cars. They all crash and bang into each other until just one car remains with a running engine. The last three cars from each heat will then move on to the master competition on Sunday.
Bleeker and his two teenage sons all help make sure each other’s cars are up to the derby’s strict safety standards and then compete against each other.
“Last year, my youngest son took me out!” Bleeker laughed. But Bleeker noted camaraderie trumps competition in the Flagstaff derby. “It’s really just about guys going out and having a good time," he said. The $1,000 grand prize isn’t bad either.
Proceeds go to resources for the blind and hearing-impaired at Flagstaff Sunrise Lions Club. $7 entry, children ages 0-5 free.