Among the typical animals found at the Santa Barbara County Fair, three stand out for their unusual presence — sharks.
At the Live Shark Experience, host Philip Peters provides education and entertainment about the three nurse sharks swimming in a self-contained tank parked just inside the main gate at the Santa Maria Fairpark.
“If you do only educational, the crowd doesn’t have fun,” said Peters, who is based in Sarasota, Florida.
That’s why an audience volunteer is encouraged to pound on the tank which springs a mock leak spaying real water on the unsuspecting helper as Peters solicts chewed gum and offers up duct tape to plug the hole.
“People like that stuff,” said Peters. “I like it too. It’s my favorite part of the show.”
He spends part of the show diving in the tank alongside what he called “docile swimmers” while talking to the audience about nurse sharks.
The Live Shark Experience, which features Peters diving into the tank, includes several shows daily — 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. — during the five-day fair, which runs through Sunday at the fairgrounds.
Gates open at noon Saturday and Sunday, with the Helm & Sons Amusements carnival staying open until midnight for fair celebrating the theme “Cowboys & Carousels.”
Saturday’s main stage concert at 7:30 p.m. will feature Prince protege and percussionist Sheila E performing.
General admission during the fair is $8 for ages 6 to 11; $12 for ages 12-61; and $8 for ages 62 and older. Unlimited carnival ride wristbands are $35.
On Saturday, the Minetti Arena will host the popular destruction derby, which requires a separate paid ticket for admission. Gates open at 5 p.m. and action revs up at 6 p.m. Those tickets cost $12 for general admission and $18 for box seats.
Saturday also marks a busy time as the Junior Livestock Action gets underway for hundreds of handlers for pigs, sheep, goats and steers, following the action for smaller animals Friday.
Participants will include Carpinteria-based Playa Del Sur 4-H members, who have faced more than the usual challenges en route to the fair after enduring four evacuations related to the Thomas Fire, the Montecito debris flows and rains.
The area holding their steers features names of individuals and businesses that have helped the club, which lost its livestock yard and supplies during the mudslide.
Initially the steers were safely stashed at Earl Warren Showgrounds before the debris flow, but the closure of Highway 101 meant the 4-H handlers could not reach them. Later, they were moved to the Santa Ynez Valley.
“We had a lot of help from people up north,” said Elizabeth Estrada, a Santa Barbara City College student in her final year of 4-H.
But the 4-Hers found one benefit from the challenging events.
“They know how to load and unload,” veteran 4-Her Jenny Alaniz said of the club's well-traveled steers.
“Now they get on and off the trailer pretty well, “ Estrada added.
“They’re professionals,” Alaniz said. “We got good at evacuating in like 10 minutes.”
— Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.