IIt’s a mix of what people have missed the most about not having the Pima County Fair for the past two years:
The thrilling, death-defying rides that take you to impossibly high points and drop you fast and hard; or the funky foods of anything fried, spicy that sizzles on your tongue or sweet that hurts your teeth and stomach?
Or did you miss the music, rap and country concerts in Tejano and pop, which are free with a fair entry fee?
Whatever your reason for making the trip southeast from Tucson every April, for as long as you can remember, the Pima County Fair is back.
For the first time since 2019, the Pima County Fair returns this weekend for an 11-day run from Thursday, April 21 through Sunday, May 1.
” We are pleased. We are pleased. I can’t even tell you,” said Launa Rabago, Pima County Marketing and Special Events Manager. “When I talk (about the return of the fair) I get emotional. We weren’t really sure we were going to come back. There was so much uncertainty for the last couple of years.
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Since it’s been a minute since the last county fair, we decided to let you know what to expect, from funky new foods to thrill rides, animal shows, exhibitions and concerts.
Since the last time we met in the sprawling food court, Flaming Hot Cheetos has gone from guest appearances in corn dog batter and fried turkey thighs to starring roles on your candies, your sour and savory dishes at most of the 37 food stalls set up at the fair.
How about a Flaming Hot Pickle made with extra thick glazed pickle chips topped with creamy cheese sauce and crunchy Flaming Cheetos? Sour, cold, creamy and spicy in one bite.
Or maybe the Hot Cheeto Float floats your boat: a fresh lime soda infused with Flaming Hot Cheetos, topped with whipped cream and spicier Cheetos. Slightly sweet, slightly spicy and according to the description of the fair organizers, refreshing.
“That’s the funny thing about the fair. It’s once a year. It’s time to let go and indulge in what we’ve been missing,” said Rabago, whose list of things she plans to try includes this Hot Cheeto Float.
A few other interesting bites, many new to the show, you’ll find among the stands:
Strawberry cheesecake donuts and strawberry cheesecake funnel cakes, all made to order.
Taco cotton candy – sticky cotton candy is shaped into a taco shell stuffed with ice cream and topped with gummies and Fruity Pebbles cereal.
Watermelon Taco – a thick slice of watermelon cut down the middle to create the taco shell which is filled with ice cream and topped with Tajin seasoning.
Speaking of fruit, Frozen Pogo serves passion fruit, orange, or guava in a freshly cut pineapple. You can also get Tropical Mango Lemonada with Chamoy on top.
Fry Me a River: We can’t even count the number of vendors selling fried foods, classic french fries, and foot-long butter-fried corn dogs. Yes, fried butter. Then there’s Jakes Donuts, which throws all things sweet in frying for a flight of desserts including Twinkie, cupcake, Snickers bar and Oreos.
If you’re a fan of the raw cookie dough craze, how about fried cookie dough? So we admit we are a little confused. If you fry cookie dough, doesn’t it become a fried cookie? We are on a mission to answer this question; stay tuned.
Other options include noodle and rice bowls, barbecue, steaks, burgers, tacos, hot dogs, and popcorn.
Rabago said that with the addition of several new taco stands to the food line, there are plans for a “Taco Tuesday” promotion. There are also $3 happy hour deals until 5 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, April 25-27, which include fry bread, mini donuts, tacos, rice bowls, nachos, mango on a stick, fried Oreos, ice cream cones and churros, mini slices of pizza. and Fruity Pebble Dole Mini Whisks.
Most food stalls are operated by Ray Cammack Shows, based in the West Valley town of Levine. RCS holds carnivals at nine major events, including the Arizona State Fair, Coachella, and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
Here’s how you can tell if the ride is scary: the less tickets you pay for the ride, the quieter it is.
Four- to eight-ticket rides — tickets are $1.25 each — are pretty much kid-friendly, from Toon Town, Balloons Up Up and the Clown Funhouse to Jumbo Flying Elephants, Monster Mash, Euroslide, Little Dipper, Carousel , Silver Streak and Kite Flyer. There is thrill on the rides, especially if you are a small child, but nothing so scary that your toddler will be traumatized.
RCS saves that for the more expensive nine-to-12-ticket rides: Zero Gravity where you stand strapped inside a cage and spin around until your feet are off the ground; G-Force that propels you through the air and vice versa; the Crazy Coaster which navigates around crazy curves and twists, dips and falls; the Endeavour, which takes you in circles, then up and sideways at a 180 degree angle; and the Ice Jet that spins you faster and faster to the soundtrack of upbeat EDM music, flashing black lights and glittering disco balls.
The three most expensive rides are the 16-ticket Insanity, which flies you back and forth several hundred meters in the air, then spins in a full circle so you’re, for a moment, upside down; the 20-ticket Mach 1 that measures 120 feet and flips end to end with riders strapped into cages; or the 30-ticket—it’s $37.50 if you do the math—Titan, which takes you 170 feet in the air, flipping you over and over while you sit with your legs dangling from the cage.
A word of advice: wait later.
General admission is free with a fair entry fee. If you want a reserved seat, it’s extra.
Singer-songwriter Tai Verdes brings his ukulele to open the series on Thursday, April 21. Canadian singer-songwriter Renforshort opens the show at 7:30 p.m.
Hard rock Anthrax plays at 8 p.m. Friday, April 22
Country singer Scotty McCreery plays a show at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 23
Fiesta Fuego with Mexican-American rappers Baby Bash, McMagic and Frankie J starts at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 24
1970s disco/pop legends Village People will remind us how to do the ‘YMCA’ dance when they take the stage at 7.30pm on Monday, April 25
AB Quintanilla III Kumbia AllStarz brings Latin rock and cumbia to the fair at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 26
Contemporary Christian singer Crowder performs at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 27
Rapper TI, whose career dates back to the late 1990s, has a show at 8 p.m. on April 28
Eddie van Halen’s son Wolfgang brings his band Mammoth WVH here for a show at 7.30pm on April 29
Country singer Easton Corbin takes the stage at 8 p.m. on April 30
Los Tucanes de Tijuana close the series at 7:30 p.m. in May. 1
Exhibits, animals and other attractions
FFA students from the Tucson area will show off their cattle throughout the fair in the barns near the Brekke Gate
Student works, robotics projects and artworks will be exhibited in the exhibition halls
There are a pair of car shows beginning with Stylistics Tucson, AZ Car Club Lowrider Car Show and Shine from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, April 24; and the Door Slammers Car Club Show and Shine from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on April 30.
There are daily shows for the whole family, including Professor Smart’s science show, Kiddie Korral, Bengal tiger and sea lion shows, and Brad’s World of Reptiles shows. For a full schedule, visit pimacountyfair.com/everyday-events
Barrio Brewing is hosting a GCPRA rodeo under the big ramada at 2 p.m. on April 30.
Some useful tips
Enter the fairgrounds from Houghton Road and Interstate 10 and follow signs to bypass ongoing roadwork.
Bring cash for parking; they don’t take plastic for the $5 fee.
Visit pimacountyfair.com for discount days, including Pepsi Wristband Day on Wednesday, April 27 and Thursday, April 28.
Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at [email protected] On Twitter @Starburch