The furry red monster, alongside fellow Muppet Abby Cadabby, a fairy princess in training, were greeted by the cries and shouts of children who raced onstage to offer hugs, high-fives and genuine affection.
First in line to meet the dynamic duo were Mariah Torres, 12, of Modesto, along with family members Stacie, 10, Synthya, 7, and Brianna, 4.
“We’ve been waiting since 3 p.m.,” said Mariah.
“I can’t wait anymore,” added Stacie.
Each of the girls sported pink, red and purple painted nails to mimic the colorful monsters furry pigment. Their chaperon and grandmother also said the girls owned several toys from the show.
When asked why they liked Elmo and Abby, Brianna answered rather shyly, “Elmo is our friend, and Abby has a wand. She’s a princess.”
When they were called to the stage, a bright but shy smile reflected across each of the girls’ faces as they hugged and high-fived the giddy monsters.
Children watched with anticipation from the sidelines in a roped off area, waiting for their turn to meet the monsters.
“Mom! Mom! It’s them!” 6-year-old Christen Willmirth whispered to her mother, unable to withhold her anticipation as she waited in line.
Mother Andrea Wright was also elated to see that her two and a half year old child, Jasilynn, was taking the meeting very well.
“He loves Elmo,” Wright said. “We have a rabbit named Abby, and Elmo is everywhere in our house,” she said, pointing to Jasilynn’s five inch Elmo toy that was clung in his hands. Jasilynn would occasionally shout, “Elmo!” and clap his hands in happiness.
The adults were in on the action as well, and posed next to their children with the brightly colored creatures.
Dee Ludwig, a Lathrop native, was ecstatic to see her son, Alexander, 12, enjoying his visit with Elmo. Alexander sported a nifty Elmo t-shirt and matching hat, but was unable to make it up on the stage due to his wheelchair.
The thoughtful monsters came down from the stage and personally met Alexander at the brink, where they showered him with the same level of affection as they’ve shown to all their guests.
“He loves this,” said Dee. “He loves Elmo. Everywhere we go, we have to take a portable TV, and he always watches Elmo. Always.”
KAT Country radio’s Jim Wells, “Jungle Jim,” was also in attendance and pulled out all the stops when he began playing his trumpet to familiar tunes, including Sesame Street and Elmo’s theme songs.
Elmo and Abby greeted children for roughly 90 minutes before they were granted a break from the flock of children who came to visit them, personally.
The second meet-and-greet session was generally more crowded than the first once the fair opened at 5 p.m. The first session, which began at 3:30 p.m., was exclusively designed for the county fair’s Kids Club, a special program, held in tandem with the Stanislaus County Office of Education, designed to entice children to learn.
The club first launched last year, and has already won a first-place award from the Western Fairs Association. The program gives children, ages 4 to 12, the chance to explore the fairgrounds, learn from the exhibits, and even provides a healthy gateway for children and their parents to interact.
“It’s a learning experience for children and adults,” said Adrenna Alkhas, spokesperson for the Stanislaus County Fair. “We do our best to make the experience interactive and fun, so you don’t really feel like you’re learning; you’re playing.”
Last year, 540 children had signed up for the event. This year, the numbers grew to over 800 as of Thursday afternoon. The premise is for children to answer a series of questions given to them on a passport as they visit the fair. Once the questions are answered, they are to turn in the completed form for a chance to win a “family fun pack,” granted by KAT Country 103, a partner of Kids Club. The pack includes tickets for Great America, the Oakland Zoo, Monterey Bay Aquarium and more.
Hopeful parents that missed out this year can get any early start by signing their children up in April 2014.
“Joining the Kid’s Club has its perks,” said Alkhas. “Children who are part of the Kid’s Club get goodie bags, coloring books, and we give $2 off admission to kids who are ‘fair’ and passed civility. Today, the kids had an exclusive chance to see Elmo and Abby before the fair opened.”
Due to the clubs marginal success, Alkhas believes the Kids Club will be a longstanding tradition, and intends to get more parents involved.
“The fair is more than just corndogs and rodeos,” said Alkhas. “We want to educate people through our exhibits and make them happy.”
Contact Brooke Borba at 892-6187, ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org