North County residents who have been longing for carnival rides and carnival food for two years can get their fix as the Santa Maria Fairpark brings the Greatest Portable Theme Park to the city.

The COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of the Santa Barbara County Fair and dozens of other events in 2020 and this year, and left the Fairpark struggling to stay afloat and keep the lights on.

But the Fairpark survived and, with restrictions being lifted, is bringing back large public events, starting with the Greatest Portable Theme Park.

“We’re so excited to be having events here and having people get back into things,” Fairpark spokeswoman Rebecca Barks said as crews were assembling rides and setting up food booths.

Barks said Helm & Sons Amusements, which has provided the carnival for the Santa Barbara County Fair for years, brought some old favorites plus some new rides and attractions, including live entertainment.

“Currently they have … traditional-style carnival rides, but we’ve formatted it like a theme park,” Barks said. “That means one ticket allows admission and access to all the rides and all the attractions for one low price.

“Of course, food and carnival games you have to pay for,” she added.

The more traditional rides include names familiar to regular carnivalgoers — the Alpine Slide, Baja Buggies, Fender Bender bumper cars, the Century Wheel, Crazy Dumbos, Yoyo and the Grand Carousel.

But adrenaline junkies can climb aboard the High Voltage, Himalaya, Insomniac, Star Tower and Zipper rides, Barks said.

“We have fun things for the little ones, too,” she added, noting that one building has been turned into the Cub Country Kids Cave with age-suitable rides and activities.

Another new attraction is an animatronic show called Bubba Bear’s Animatronic Stage Production, which features animatronic critters singing and dancing, and for those who tire of exhilarating rides, the carnival will offer a more relaxing miniature golf course.

On Thursday and Friday evenings, a condensed version of the Monster Truck shows will be staged, which is included in the single ticket price.

“We’ll also have the carnival foods synonymous with summer activities,” Barks said.

Corn dogs, funnel cakes, nachos, caramel apples, regular and flavored popcorn, deep-fried desserts, cotton candy, ice cream, slushies, lemonade and other cold drinks are on the menu.

“It’s just going to be a great event for the community and to let people know we’re back,” Barks said.

The price of admission is $30 for those age 10 and younger and $40 for those age 11 and older.

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