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FAIR TO START 11-DAY RUN NEW FAIRGROUNDS BOAST NEW BUILDINGS, PARKING.

Byline: Charles F. Bostwick Staff Writer

LANCASTER - Two thousand farm animals, totally ``nondiet'' delicacies like funnel cakes and pepper bellies, carnival rides and 800 handicraft entries will greet an expected 250,000 visitors to the Antelope Valley Fair.

Opening today, the fair boasts more parking, new buildings and a continuation of free grandstand admission to concerts in its second run at the new fairgrounds in west Lancaster. Concert performers will include Ashanti, the Doobie Brothers, Montgomery Gentry and Latin Grammy nominees Banda El Recodo.

``Even though it's a new fairgrounds, we're working hard to improve it and make it better. We're not going to rest on our laurels because we have a new fairgrounds. We're going to work hard to make it better every year,'' said board member Matthew Jimmink, a former 4-H exhibitor himself.

The 11-day fair will open at 4 p.m. today with a ceremony including a flyover by an Edwards Air Force Base F-16 fighter jet. Tonight's opening concert is by Banda el Recodo, nominated Tuesday for best band album at the Latin Grammy awards, and by soap opera star Laura Flores.

Bando el Recodo concert admission is included in today's $15 admission, which also covers a wristband for free carnival rides. Fair organizers are moving seats to provide a dance floor during the concert, which they expect to draw a standing-room-only crowd because of Bando el Recodo's popularity.

``It's huge,'' fair board member Deana Ward said.

The 2005 fair drew more than 250,000 visitors, and officials expect attendance this year to top that, fair spokeswoman Wendy Bozigian said.

``I definitely think it's going to be bigger,'' Bozigian said.

The $15 pay-one-price admission that includes carnival rides will apply today and on Sept. 2. There will be a special $1 admission price on Thursday.

On other days, the regular fair admission price is $7, with a discount price of $5 for children ages 6 to 11 or seniors over 62. Military personnel are admitted free with identification.

Besides Bando el Recodo and Flores, concert headliners will include the Doobie Brothers and Grand Funk Railroad on Saturday, Ashanti on Sunday, Hoobastank and Crossfade on Monday, former Doors Ray Manzarek and Robbie Krieger on Tuesday and Montgomery Gentry on Wednesday.

Concerts are at 7:30 each night.

Top-price ``gold circle'' seats for the Doobie Brothers are sold out, and are nearly so for Montgomery Gentry, fair officials said. Trackside seats are still available, and grandstand seating, included with fair admission, is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Other grandstand events will include figure-eight stock-car racing on Sept. 2; the unique Rural Olympics of hay loading, tractor driving and other farm skills on Sept. 3; bull riding on Sept. 4; and a demolition derby on Sept. 5.

Figure 8 and Rural Olympics admission is included with fair admission. Tickets are $25 and $15 for the bull riding and $15 for the demolition derby, which includes fair admission.

Future Farmers of America and 4-H Club youngsters will sell the cattle, pigs, sheep and other animals they have raised at the annual Kiwanis Junior Livestock Auction on Thursday.

For the children and teenagers who raised the animals, the auction is the culmination of months of daily hard work.

``At 6 o'clock in the morning I feed and clean the pen,'' said 15-year-old Patrick Arrigo of Lancaster, feeding his 1,125-pound steer G. ``Then I go to school. After school I hose out the pen, feed, give water and also feed the other animals I have.''

Arrigo also has a pig entered in the fair in Lancaster, and his animals - all raised in Antelope Valley High School's farm pens - include a sheep he will enter at the Los Angeles County Fair.

Free entertainment around the grounds includes hypnotism by Suzy Haner, who pulls people out of the audience to join in her act; the Hambone Express pig races; BMX bicycle stunt riders; and jugglers. ``Tribute'' bands play music of Rod Stewart, Tom Petty, The Cars and others.

The fair moved to its new 135-acre site for its run last year. The new fairgrounds are a joint effort of the fair board and the city of Lancaster, which took over the old fairgrounds as a site for homes, a park, shopping and schools. The new site is twice as big as the old one where the fair had operated for 65 years.

Last year fairgoers experienced long lines of cars waiting to get into the parking lot's single entrance, so fair officials have since created two new parking lots off the grounds. One is across Avenue H from the main entrance, and the other is on Avenue G-8, behind the fairgrounds.

< IF YOU GO

--ADMISSION: General admission, $7; children 6 to 11 and seniors 62 and older, $5; children under 6 and active-duty military personnel with identification, free. Grandstand event tickets include fair admission.

--PARKING: $3.

--LOCATION: 2551 W. Ave. H, Lancaster.

--INFORMATION: (661) 948-6060 or www.avfair.com.

CAPTION(S):

3 photos, box

Photo:

(1 -- color in AV edition only) Workers change bulbs on a ride at the Antelope Valley Fair, which opens today with more parking, new buildings and a continuation of free grandstand admission to concerts.

(2 -- color in AV edition only) Pigmy goats Angel, left, and Precious are among the thousands of farm animals on display at the Antelope Valley Fair.

(3 -- ran in AV edition only) An Antelope Valley Fair worker cleans the Kiddy Bumps tent while Dizzy Dragon looks on.

Jeff Goldwater/Staff Photographer

Box:

IF YOU GO (see text)
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 26, 2005
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