Something Nashville this way comes
Country music reigns at the Ventura County Fair
By Chris Jay 08/04/2011
Even the biggest stick-in-the mud curmudgeon can find something to like to about the county fair. It may be cliché, but it truly does offer something for everyone. Throw in a plethora of booths, plastic-framed Mr. T posters left over from the mid-1980s and, of course, the hypnotist, who, although no one understands why, if she really has the gift to put an audience to sleep, she doesn’t do so and take off with everyone’s money as opposed to carving out a meager living putting people to sleep in the food court. Lastly, who could forget the fair’s heavenly, or satanic, grub that as of a couple of years ago included chocolate-dipped bacon?
Which brings us to the entertainment. All cynicism aside, it’s a flat-out bargain. The fair for a long time was criticized for the weak grandstand music line up that comes free with admission. It seemed if Styx- or Tony Orlando-type matinee shows weren’t your cup of tea, you skipped the tunes.
Over the past few years, though, that’s all changed. The fair now is one of the premier entertainment events and venues of the year. Major acts in multiple genres have visited the event in the past few years.
There are several reasons for the change. Playing county fairs was once a considered a terrible career move and evidence that an artist was “washed up.” As the music industry began to feel the effects of downloading, though, and as concert goers started to attend fewer concerts during the year due to the economy, those big fair budgets and massive audiences became pretty appealing to artists. Love it or hate it, we have one genre to thank for leading the way to this fair-friendly thinking. While most acts considered fairs as career suicide, country music embraced it and is reaping the rewards.
The Ventura County Fair usually has two nights of entertainment reserved for country artists, and in the past years, audiences have been treated to a who’s who of major artists in the genre, like Miranda Lambert, Dierks Bently, Sara Evans, Josh Turner, Jake Owen, Clay Walker, Lee Ann Womack, Wynonna, Leann Rimes, Jo Dee Messina, the Charlie Daniels Band, Sawyer Brown and more. It’s to the point that so many hat-sporting, twangy guitar playing,
Southern-drawled KHAY heroes have played in Ventura at the fair, you’d think it was Nashville by the sea. As for the turnouts? The country music nights are usually the fair’s two biggest entertainment draws with the grandstand arena completely filled, and traffic a nightmare as the freeway is crammed with 4x4 trucks.
This is still Southern California, though, right? For God’s sake, America wrote a soft rock anthem about the 101. These can’t be locals embracing this Boot Barn-sponsored movement, but the truth is that they are. Whether legitimate country-living folk from the more rural regions of the county or weekend cowboys, the moms and dads who’ve been betrayed by the dance-heavy, soulless direction of Top 40 radio, who’ve moved over to country, these are now our people. We must face the fact that, just as the mustached prophet Alan Jackson predicted, we’ve gone country.
So yes, Virginia, the fair is here again and there will be something for everyone. But please, even if you’re no longer a surfer girl and you’ve traded in your flip-flops for a set of boots, promise us one thing: No matter what Trace Adkins says, stay away from the chocolate-covered bacon.
The Ventura County Fair takes place from Wednesday, Aug. 3, to Sunday, Aug. 14. This year’s entertainment lineup features country artists Clay Walker and Matt Morris on Saturday, Aug. 6, and Trace Adkins on Friday, Aug. 12. Walker is offering a VIP experience to fans at the fair, which includes a special backstage acoustic show and a merchandise package.To learn more, visit www.claywalker.com/vip.html. Morris, whose father is country artist Gary Morris, is one of a few openly gay performers in country music. Adkins is touring on the heels of his latest release, Proud to Be
Here. For a full schedule, visit www.venturacountyfair.org.