Davis fair-goers really dig dogs, trumpet elephant rides

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 1:21 PM

Bryon Saxton

FARMINGTON — If lines are any indication, Cindy and Jenny will be receiving rock star-like treatment during their short stay at the Davis County Fair.

The pair of pachyderms, who traveled by semitrailer about 1,750 miles to make their performances, drew a crowd of onlookers Wednesday morning at the Legacy Events Center, 151 S. 1100 West.

Some spectators were there just to catch a glimpse of the two middle-aged female Asian elephants. Others were there waiting to receive the full-on experience — an $8 ride.

One of those was Farmington resident Rachel Raccuia, who arrived four hours before the elephant’s first show.

The attraction will be a large part of this year’s four-day fair that began Wednesday and runs through Saturday. Admission to the fair is free, but there is a $5 charge for parking.

“I’m obsessed with elephants. This is a dream come true,” said Raccuia, 19, who arrived early enough to position herself near the five-step ladder used to board the elephant.

“They have always been my favorite animal,” Raccuia said before proving it by proudly showing off her cellphone with an elephant wrap around it.

And after having an opportunity to ride an elephant for the first time, Raccuia excitingly proclaimed, “It was so amazing. I nearly cried.”

“I came to see (Raccuia’s) face. We’re here to provide support and take pictures,” said Adam Dragon, Raccuia’s brother-in-law.

Dragon, 25, was also there to see his 2-year-old son, Carson, ride the elephant.

Whether it was the excitement of the event or a result of being shy, Carson was speechless.

But it’s no secret that people are drawn to elephants.

N V Events & All Attractions of Tampa, Fla., owners and handlers of Cindy, 38, and Jenny, 42, are not surprised at the public’s reaction to their elephants.

“They’re just like big, squishy teddy bears,” said Barbara “Libby” Garcia, an owner with N V Events & All Attractions.

Garcia said the company does 300 to 400 shows during a nine-month period — resting in the winter — offering the public an opportunity to get an up-close view of an elephant, and even ride it if they choose to do so.

She said circuses and zoos generally cannot provide the same opportunity.

When county fair officials booked the elephant act for their fair, they knew they were onto something big.

“This is our main attraction. It is not every day in Davis County you see an elephant,” said Davis County Fair Director Alli Barnes.

But this year’s fair isn’t just about elephants.

Back by popular demand are the American Diving Dogs from Costa Mesa, Calif.

The act, which has its own diving dogs, also opens up its competition to local dog handlers who have an interest in competing.

“We’ll get over 100 dogs for the event,” said Tracy Hughes, a spokeswoman for the act.

“People like it. It’s addicting,” she said of watching the dogs dive into a 4-foot-deep, cool pool of water.

The dogs — including pit bulls and bull dogs that do require a life jacket in order to participate — like it as well, Hughes said.

The mass and big bones of those particular breeds of dogs, and their short front paws, can make them incapable of swimming, she said.

This is the fifth year American Diving Dogs has participated in the fair.

And in addition to watching dogs dive and elephants walk, fair-goers can also visit 100 vendors — 20 of those vendors selling a wide range of food products.

Items on this year’s county fair menu include frozen bananas, churros, fried ice cream, hamburgers and strawberry lemonade.

The county attracts about the same number of food vendors each year because power and water are limited on the center site, said Davis County Fair officials.

But opening the gates Wednesday to awaiting crowds, officials said, was encouraging.

While admission to the fair is free, the PRCA rodeo and tonight’s demolition derby are ticketed events.

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