When Kool and the Gang sing their famous lyrics, "Celebrate good times, come on," at the San Joaquin Fair later this weekend, it will have special meaning. The fair, which opens Wednesday and runs through Sunday in Stockton, is celebrating its 150th anniversary.
In honor of the anniversary, the first 150 people through the gate Wednesday will get free admission. Fair board member Mitch Slater says dignitaries, local and statewide, have been invited to attend the opening-day ceremonies, which will include a parade by the Lincoln High School marching band.
A lot has changed since the fair opened in 1860, when it was a small four-day exhibit in Hunter Square.
"It was an agricultural fair, and we still try to stay true to our roots," said fair marketing director Lea Isetti.
Over the years, rides were added to the festivities, as well as food, art exhibits, performances and concerts, making the event one of the largest local events of the year.
A huge draw to the fair are the horse races, which have always been a fair focus. Slater says the fairgrounds have been spruced up and the winner's circle and fencing has been painted. To support breast cancer awareness, pink ribbon stakes will be posted and jockeys will wear pink pants or helmets in Saturday's race.
Many people attend the fair for the concerts that start each night at 8 p.m. Concerts are free with fair admission. This year's line-up includes Jose Feliciano, Sawyer Brown, Kool and The Gang, Tower of Power and Lupillo Rivera.
Locals will perform on the community stage, which hasn't been featured at a San Joaquin Fair since 2005. Manteca Idol, a ballet folklorico group, the mariachi band from Chaves High School, and other school and art groups will be able to showcase their talents on the community stage throughout the week.
To help families escape the June heat, a new Family Cool Zone is set aside to offer shade and water activities for children and parents. Younger children will be entertained with interactive games, duck races, sandboxes, while parents enjoy the shade.
"You can literally cool off," Slater said.
Just outside the Cool Zone will be a merry-go-round that only costs 10 cents to ride. All dimes will be donated to the March of Dimes.
Fair CEO Debbie Cook says the fair will offer a lot more, including a new entertainment venue and a Steel Guitar Lounge where there will be food and beverages and four plasma TVs playing sports.
San Joaquin Fair at a glance
Where: San Joaquin County Fairgrounds, Airport Way and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Stockton.
Dates: June 16-20.
Hours: Noon to 10 p.m.
Information: 466-5041, www.sanjoaquinfair.com.
Adults: $9 ($6 in advance).
Children: $5 ($3 in advance).
Kids ages 5 and under are free.
— Seniors and children are free on Thursday.
— Order tickets online at www.sanjoaquinfair.com or call 466-5739.
Carnival coupons and wristbands
Coupon: $25 ($20 in advance).
— Coupons are good any one day until 11 p.m.
— Good for either one wristband (unlimited ride pass) or 30 tickets.
— Rides require 2-5 tickets each.
— Fair hours are noon-10 p.m. each day.
Wednesday, June 16: Jose Feliciano
Thursday, June 17: Feliciano is the Puerto Rican singer, guitarist and composer known for his 1970 holiday single, "Feliz Navidad."
Thursday, June 17: Sawyer Brown
How you know the band: Sawyer Brown is a country band is known for their song, "Enter Sandman," released on their 1984 album, "Who the Hell Cares About Steven."
Friday, June 18: Kool and The Gang
How you know the band: Kool and The Gang formed in 1964 and have sold more than 70 million albums since. They are best known for their songs "Celebration," "Get Down on it," and "Jungle Boogie," which was featured in the cult classic film, "Pulp Fiction."
Saturday, June 19: Tower of Power
How you know Tower of Power: The Bay-Area band Tower of Power formed in the '60s and are known for singles such as "So Very Hard to Go," "This Time It's Real" and "What is Hip?"
Sunday, June 20: Lupillo Rivera
How you know Lupillo Rivera: Rivera has released two albums in the past two years, with "Apoco Si," "Empresa NC," "Epoca De Oro" and "Esclavo Y Amo," being the most popular songs.
Concerts are free with fair admission.