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Caruthers hosts largest free gate fair

Alyssa Reese | The Feather Online

The Caruthers Fair ran for its 89th annual year, Sept. 26-29. It is the largest free gate fair in California.

Colorful leaves scatter everywhere as people gather in the gates of the Caruthers Fair. The smell of funnel cakes and the sound of laughter bring families together and provide feelings of warmth for newcomers.

As people crowd tightly together, aromas from many different food booths gather in the air and make it difficult to choose. The colorful view of ferris wheel and the piercing screams from The Zipper excite the people of Caruthers and bring thousands each year.

This scene takes place annually in the small town of Caruthers, CA, every year at the largest free gate fair in California.

Alyssa Reese, ’21, decided that going to the fair with friends and having a great time with them really adds more to the experience. Eating cotton candy, taking pictures of the rides, endless selfies, and looking over the whole view of Caruthers at the top of the ferris wheel is always better with friends by your side.

The theme of this year’s fair was “Big Dreams in a Small Town”, Sept. 26-29. Newcomers came to see the latest additions to the fair like the newest horticulture facilities, painted and updated structures, the improved motorcycle racing track and they replaced the older commercial building with a newly painted red barn. The United States flag drapes over the front of the barn with a banner saying ‘Caruthers Fair’.

The “old commercial building” was built around WWII with used lumber and other materials. It stood the test of time and served the fair faithfully for seventy years. However, they realized there needed to be a change, so they replaced the old building with a red barn while striving to keep the charm that everyone grew to love.

Gary Wenter, director of the Agriculture Mechanics Department, believes the theme goes along with the newest additions the fair is offering.

“We have a running list of possible fair themes that we draw from when we choose each year’s theme,” Gary Wenter said. “There have been some very positive and noticeable improvements that have happened over the last decade or so. There is a real appreciation of how the fair has not only survived, but has thrived. We thought the theme of Big Dreams in a Small Town was very fitting, considering all the improvements that have taken place.”

There have been some very positive and noticeable improvements that have happened over the last decade or so. There is a real appreciation of how the fair has not only survived, but has thrived. We thought the theme of Big Dreams in a Small Town was very fitting, considering all the improvements that have taken place. — Gary Wenter, Agriculture Mechanics Department director

Caruthers Fair, since its inception, has never taken any government assistance. Running entirely on volunteers, every cent they earn during the fair goes towards improving the next fair. Since gate admission is free, the main capital is earning by holding the Queen Contest, where girls sell raffle tickets for a new car and keep a percentage of their sales.

Whoever sells the most tickets wins the fair queen. 2018 Queen contestants were Sydney Kuma, Jessica Peralta, Kennidi Ronlake and Alyssa Salinas. For for information on past Queen and alumna Juliette Davila, read Juliette Davila seeks crown at local Caruthers Fair.

Starting in 1923, the Caruthers Fair started with hesitation. They started with two days instead of four, with expenses already mounting. Fear and doubt settled into the workers until everybody started to pitch in with money. Plans matured, and soon enough they planned for the next year. Caruthers was the first town to start such a huge community project, which became an example to the other communities in the Central Valley.

Alyssa Reese | The Feather Online

Caruthers Fair, since its inception, has never taken any government assistance. Running entirely on volunteers, every cent they earn during the fair goes towards improving the next fair.

Lifelong Caruthers resident Alina Davila, ’19, looks forward to the fair each year to the charm and friendliness.

“Caruthers is such a small and safe town and it feels very homey,” Davila said. “The fair is something that everybody in the town goes to to just have a good time with friends and family with bomb food, fun games and exciting rides.”

“My favorite ride out of all of them is the Zipper,” Davila continued. “It flips so much to where it literally feels like you’re about to plummet to your death. It gives me such a thrilling feeling.”

Caruthers Fair offers family entertainment and many carnival activities, including the rides that long-time carnival operator Johnston Amusements provides. Rides range from kiddy attractions to thrillers like the Zipper and Spin Out, the wildest and most jaw-dropping rides at the fair. Since 1954 Johnston Amusements partnered with Caruthers Fair, and ever since then they have continued to be “leaders in safety and family fun.”

If anyone missed Caruthers Fair, Big Fresno Fair is open Oct. 3-14, costing 12 dollars to get in. Over 600,000 people from all over the Central Valley experience the Big Fresno Fair annually.

For more past articles on Caruthers Fair, read Caruthers District Fair provides weekend of entertainment, and BREAKING: Caruthers Fair.

Mackenzie Beckworth can be reached via email.

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