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Santa Barbara County Fair Includes Rides, Concerts, BMX Stunts — and a Taste of Bugs

Bug-Ology show provides a twist on usual fair food as 126th annual county festival continues through Sunday at Santa Maria Fairpark


The Santa Barbara County Fair has been serving up all the favorite fair foods: corn dogs, funnel cakes — and bugs.

Yes, bugs.

As in worms, crickets and grasshoppers.

The Bug-Ology put on by Pacific Animal Productions in the Discovery Pavilion includes several shows daily about creepy crawly creatures, along with tastings.

The fair continues through Sunday at the Santa Maria Fairpark, 937 S. Thornburg St., with the theme of “Once Upon a Fair.”

A fantastical theme fits for the exhibit touting bugs as a great source of protein, a hard sell for some while others willingly gobbled up the treats.

“Crickets really don’t have much taste,” Bug-Ology representative Josh Fletcher said.

Why bugs, an insect-phobic fair-goer might ask?

“It’s sustainable protein,” Fletcher said. “It’s the protein of the future. Over 130 countries eat it every day.”

Those who have traveled internationally aren’t surprised by the bug snacks since they’re familiar with foods such as cricket tacos.

Fletcher served assorted bug treats with bug-based protein bars, featuring cricket flour, and bug-based chips called Chirps offered for sale. Both products were featured on the Shark Tank TV show.

Others just shuddered, declining a free sample.

“Most people are surprised how good they taste,” said Fletcher, who had no shortage of tasters Friday afternoon. “A lot of our bugs taste like seeds, like crickets and shield bugs taste like sunflower seeds.”

The Bug-Ology show shares information about the insects, including letting spectators hold a tarantula and learn other bug facts.

“It’s really just to bring some lighting into bugs and how amazing they are,” said Adriana Villasuso, the bug show host. “They’re kind of like the underdogs, but they’re really, really cool.”

As she brought out the tarantula named Rosey, one of three boys who volunteered to join her on the stage, fled, saying, “Nope, I’m not doing it.”

Later, Azalea Sanchez, 4, of Salinas agreed to taste a grasshopper, gamely eating the buggy treat.

“Bugs are an excellent source of food,” Villasuso said. “They have two times more protein than beef, three times more iron than spinach and more fiber than beans.”​

After the show Soraya Campbell, 6, of Orcutt, tried a bug and instantly ran to spit in the garbage can.

“That was gross,” she declared.

The 126th annual fair opened Wednesday, attracting an average crowd for the day that ended with 38 Special rocking the main stage. A large crowd Thursday night attended the performance by comedian Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias.

Friday night, country musician John Michael Montgomery performed with LeAnn Rimes set to entertain Saturday.

Main stage concerts start at 7:30 p.m., and are free with paid admission to the fair.

Perfection on Wheels BMX Stunt Show also is putting on performances several times during the fair, with heart-stopping jumps, flips and twists delivered along with positive messages for youths.

The carnival includes rides and games by Helms & Sons Amusements.

The traditional Destruction Derby at the Minetti Arena starts at 6 p.m. with gates opening at 5 p.m. Separate tickets are required and are $18 for box seats and $12 for general admission. Children 2 and younger will be admitted for free.

Revenue and attendance were average for opening day but “up significantly” on Thursday, “with that day being one of the biggest attendance days in fair history, fair spokeswoman Shelly Cone said.

In addition to the seating near the main stage for the popular Iglesias performance, a giant video wall screen was set up at a different stage for the overflow audience.

“Acts like Sterling the Bubblesmith and princess characters from A Wish Your Heart Makes are adding to the magic and coinciding with our theme, Once Upon a Fair,” Cone added.

Gates are open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Click here for information on ticket prices and a fair schedule.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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