PASO ROBLES, Calif. - With a quick snip of a ribbon at noon in front the main gate, the California Mid-State Fair opened perhaps its most anticipated edition ever.
"It's very exciting," said fair CEO Michael Bradley. "There's excitement in the air. There's excitement in people's hearts about the fair and the fans that have been coming for years and years and years and even the new people that haven't been here."
The excitment stems not just from the world's most famous country music singer performing next week, but also several new features added to the event.
"You've never seen anything like this," Bradley said. "This is all new. This is exciting. We've made so many new changes, we've run out of room writing all the new changes down."
Among changes include a new and improved carnival, a Fun Zone with various entertainment options, Midway Food Court, Paso Robles Pavilion for livestock and Rancho Frontier, a family-oriented area.
There are also new public contests, including a watermelon eating, apple baking and Texas donut challenge.
In addition, there will be a strongest man and woman competition, an insect exhibit, kids robotics activity event, wine industry awards and tasting, juggling act and much more.
With so many new additions, it didn't take visitors long to notice all the changes.
"Compared to years past, it's awesome," said Wendy Thomas of Bakersfield. "We always have a good time at the fair, but this year with the change of scenery, it's awesome."
Thomas, who was visiting with her family, was especially impressed with the revamped carnival, now operated by Helm and Sons Amusements.
"It's much better," Thomas said. "It seems safe. It's clean. You can sense the presence of the people that work here. They're easily recognizable, which is really nice for a family with two children."
The carnival is listed by the fair as the industry leader in safety and was the 2014 recipient of the Western Fairs Association Barham Award for innovation and excellance in fair service.
"We've got slides," said Helm and Sons general manager Corey Oakley. "We've got crazy extreme rides. We've got two merry-go-rounds, two ferris wheels, two slides. A fun house. A haunted zombie walk-through. Plenty of stuff for the kids and plenty of stuff for the real thrill seekers."
Another new feature located near the carnival is ARCY Live spray paint demonstration.
Throughout each day, artist Ryan ARCY Christenson will create large-scale murals.
"They are going to be photo-realistic, paint-splattered, abstract, just vibrant murals for everybody to enjoy," said Christenson.
The free viewing should be a popular addition to the fair as visitors watch the 8-foot by 12-foot canvas come alive with color.
"Everybody is just so overwhelmed and blown away and taken back because they've never seen public art done at this scale in front of people right," Christenson said.
While there are numerous changes taking place, one fair constant remains, top-notch A-List entertainment that annually places the California Mid-State Fair among the best in the nation.
Headline acts this year on the Chumash Grandstand Arena include Lionel Ritchie, Zac Brown Band, The chainsmokers, Kid Rock, John Mayer and Keith Urban.
The most talked about act this year is probably the biggest headliner in the 72-history of the fair. Last month, Garth Brooks, along with his wife Trisha Yearwood were booked.
Tickets sold out in only 30 seconds, resulting in Brooks adding a second show.
"When we made the announcement with Garth and he came back and said he was going to do a second show, it was phenomenal," Bradley said. "It was a ripple effect of earthquake proportions."
Bradley likens Brooks to he called the three biggest entertainers in history, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson.
"Now we have Garth Brooks," Bradley said. "His numbers, his impact is equal to those three other gentlemen like no other."
Brooks will perform on Thursday, July 27 at 7:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.
The California Mid-state Fair will run to Sunday, July 30.
The fair is open daily from 12 p.m to midnight.
For more information, visit www.MidStateFair.com