A young boy balked at having a tarantula placed in his hands during the Santa Barbara County Fair on Friday afternoon, but Courtney Wildey jumped at the chance to hold the huge arachnid.
“I like holding stuff like that,” said the almost-15-year-old from Arroyo Grande.
Some, like the teen, loved the tarantula. Others could barely tolerate the sight — even from a safe distance away.
“Oh, God,” one woman blurted out when the tarantula made its debut Friday afternoon during the 3 p.m. Pharaoh’s Egyptian Wildlife Show.
The tarantula was one of the creatures featured in the twice-a-day show at the 123rd annual Santa Barbara County Fair at the Santa Maria Fairpark, 937 S. Thornburg St.
The fair, with the theme of “Blue Ribbon Memories,” runs through Sunday.
Animal handler Cassie Johnson narrated the Pharaoh’s Egyptian Wildlife Show, which includes insects, reptiles, birds and “something furry and cute.”
The wildlife show begins at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. daily during the fair in the Discovery Pavilion
“We just try to educate so they know more,” she said.
For instance, she told the crowd that the African gray parrot often acts like a 5-year-old — and lives 60 years. They’re also fairly loud and make noise nonstop.
Their huge beaks, handy in the wild, lead them to chew couches, walls and anything else within reach.
“They are very destructive,” she said, adding that African gray parrots don’t make good pets
Before the show, she held a domesticated Sphinx cat — they’re hairless — for visitors to pet.
Arthur Martinez of Lompoc said he enjoyed learning about the snake and the hedgehog.
“Because they’re pokey,” he said.
“They love this place,” added Maressa Martinez of Lompoc as she corralled Arthur and two other youngsters checking out various parts of the exhibit.
Elsewhere at the Fairpark, the Sea Lion Splash occurs three times a day at 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. In the Photography, Fine Arts and Home Arts Pavilion, members of various groups demonstrate their craft, including women showing off their rug-hooking skills Friday afternoon.
Along with the Helm and Sons Amusements carnival and musical entertainment on the stages, the Everything Matters in the Kitchen Cooking Show occurs several times a day in the Agricultural Pavilion. A Destruction Derby is planned for Saturday, with gates opening at 5 p.m. and action getting started at 6 p.m.
Fairpark officials said attendance for the first two days of the 2014 fair is up by 4,000 people over last year. Final numbers won’t be available until next week.
Gates are open 11 a.m. to 10 a.m. daily. Admission costs $10 for adults and $7 for children ages 6 to 11 and senior citizens. Children age 5 or younger will be admitted for free.
A full schedule is available by clicking here.