ANTIOCH -- Dan and Carolyn Schuette may have been smiling more than their 4-year-old great-granddaughter Rylee at the Contra Costa County Fair on Thursday afternoon. The Antioch residents snapped iPhone pictures as Rylee rode on a pony named Cinnamon, bought her cotton candy and watched her squeal with delight at the sight of an exotic bird.

"I've been coming here since I was a young kid, but this is her first time," Carolyn Schuette said.

Rylee, of Oakley, liked a pink and gray condor at the bird show named Rosie the best because she got to see it up close.

Noelle Pedersen, 7, left, and her brother Levi Pedersen, 5, right, of Brentwood, fly through the air on the Phoenix during the opening day of the Contra
Noelle Pedersen, 7, left, and her brother Levi Pedersen, 5, right, of Brentwood, fly through the air on the Phoenix during the opening day of the Contra Costa County Fair in Antioch, Calif., on Thursday, May 29, 2014. (Dan Rosenstrauch/Bay Area News Group)

Hundreds of families and schoolchildren from all over the area made their way through the gates on the first day of the 78th annual county fair. Many were looking to get an early peek at the bird show and catch the pig races at the Family Fun Zone, a new addition this year. The fair runs through Sunday.

Shali Dusich, 10, of Concord and several of her friends in a home-schooling program were there for an art exhibit they entered but whooped it up watching the All-Alaskan Pig Races. They cheered as little porkers named Notorious P.I.G. and Sloppy Joe cleared hurdles and squealed along the track.

Her favorite part was when one pig found a sneaky way to overcome one of the hurdles.

"I thought he was just going to stay there and do nothing," she said.


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Branden Ancheta, 5, of Antioch, and Ian Black, 6, of Oakley, enjoyed the impressive 10-foot wingspan of one of the condors at the Birdman show and a singing parrot. Their mothers, Brandie and Margarita, said the large condor reminded the boys of the bird in the movie "Kung Fu Panda."

Rebecca Heyne of Brentwood and her four children, ages 12 to 18, had just left the animal exhibits and were trying to map which rides to hit. They moved from Turlock a little over a year ago and were too busy to attend last year's fair, she said.

A group of pigs run towards the finish line during the pig races during the opening day of the Contra Costa County Fair in Antioch, Calif., on Thursday,
A group of pigs run towards the finish line during the pig races during the opening day of the Contra Costa County Fair in Antioch, Calif., on Thursday, May 29, 2014. (Dan Rosenstrauch/Bay Area News Group)

"It's so similar to the fair back there; it just has that hometown feel," Heyne said.

The weather should be ideal, said Dennis Renden, a member of the Antioch Lions Club, who has worked the beer stand at the fair since 1977.

Along with fair staples such as carnival rides, exhibit halls and fried foods, some of the highlights booked for the weekend include trailer races and jet cars at the speedway on Friday night and stock car races Saturday.

Also, Paradise Skate will be open to the public during fair hours, with rental skates available.

Musical headliner Foghat will perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday night, and the annual junior livestock auction is set for Sunday morning.

Erick Chavez, 6, of Antioch, works hard at pulling 120 pounds during the Pedal Tractor Pulls during the opening day of the Contra Costa County Fair in
Erick Chavez, 6, of Antioch, works hard at pulling 120 pounds during the Pedal Tractor Pulls during the opening day of the Contra Costa County Fair in Antioch, Calif., on Thursday, May 29, 2014. (Dan Rosenstrauch/Bay Area News Group)

This year's theme for the fair, "I am a champion, hear me roar," salutes the young who demonstrate their skills and compete through various exhibits and livestock shows.

Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.

IF YOU GO
What: Contra Costa County Fair
When: Noon to 11 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday
Where: County Fairgrounds, 1201 West 10th St., Antioch
Details: 925-757-4400 or visit www.contracostafair.com