The Wild West Turkey Stampede’s racers enter the arena in a bid to be the top bird — or get the feed stashed in a remote-controlled truck — on Friday at the Santa Barbara County Fair. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Turkeys raced around a tiny Santa Maria Fairpark arena Friday afternoon in a show that was both educational and entertaining — as well as apparently appetite-inducing for at least one spectator.

The Wild West Turkey Stampede is one of the attractions taking place during this week’s Santa Barbara County Fair.

The 128th annual fair continues through Sunday. Gates open at 11 a.m. each day, with a carnival rides, games, commercial vendors, food, entertainment and more.

At the turkey race arena, Nancy Riegler informed and amused the crowd of children and adults about the day’s biggest bird racers.

“These are the turkeys everybody here knows,” she said. “These are the turkeys we invite into our homes, in one form or another, you know what I’m saying.”

Formally known as broad-breasted bronze and giant white turkeys, she said most were probably more familiar with the consumer name — Butterball. 

“You just didn’t recognize them with their clothes on,” she said. 

With an informal countdown, the freed turkeys raced — actually chased a remote-controlled truck carrying feed in its bed.

Proving that the size of the head didn’t mean a dumb brain, one turkey stopped and awaited the return of the feed-carrying truck.

“Love these guys,” Riegler said, urging the crowd to wave to the pack leader they dubbed “Turkules” (rhymes with Hercules).

SBC Fair

Lucky Starr from Over the Top Stilt Characters by Karen Quest entertains Violette and Grace Bravo on Friday during the Santa Barbara County Fair at the Santa Maria Fairpark. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Heritage breed turkeys also got their chance to race after Gill Riegler shared some of their history. 

“Doesn’t it look like a low-budget version of the movie Jurassic Park?” Nancy Riegler asked. “It totally does.”

Of course, spectators were called to compete in a turkey gobbling contest.

“Don’t worry about the turkeys. We’re heavily insured,” Riegler said as one young competitor climbed onto the racetrack.

While the turkeys raced, one spectator watched the show as she noshed on a turkey leg purchased from a food vendor elsewhere on the fairgrounds.

Not far from the turkey races, the agricultural and horticulture building housed assorted displays, including model trains.

The Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau helped grow future farmers with activities through the GAATE Foundation. Youngsters had a chance to draw ag-themed art and plant seeds to start their own gardens in gloves to take home.

The five-day fair opened Wednesday, and the Fairpark’s CEO reported that attendance the first two days was slightly higher along with revenues in most categories. 

“The weather has been perfect, and I’m pulling every string I can, along with crossing my fingers and toes to keep it that way,” Persons added. 

Saturday at the fair is “Military and Law Enforcement Appreciation Day,” with service members and their families admitted for a free with valid ID.

The Junior Livestock Auction for large animals runs all day Saturday, culminating months of work by 4-H, FFA and other youth exhibitors who cared for their animal projects in anticipation of the fair.

“Santa Barbara County Fair has what may be the largest junior livestock auction in the State, and one of the largest in the country,” Persons said.

A Main Stage concert by Jerrod Niemann will start at 8 p.m. Saturday.

Other attractions Saturday include an evening Destruction Derby, a separate ticketed event. Tickets are $12 and can be purchased at the fair’s entrance. 

Sunday at the fair is Fiesta Day, with a variety of events planned for the closing day.

For more information on fair, go to the Fairpark’s website by clicking here or call 805.925.8824.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Janene Scully | Noozhawk North County Editor

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at