For most fairgoers, stumbling around with altered vision means they’ve drunk one too many alcoholic beverages.
But for people who made their way to the Napa County Sheriff’s booth at the Town & Country Fair on Thursday, a pair of specialized goggles gave those who plopped them on their head a similar drunken experience, with none of the negative side effects.
“For the kids, it’s mostly a novelty,” said Deputy Mark Warrington, as he put on a show for a group of junior high school students, pretending to arrest them for being twice the legal blood alcohol limit. “But for the adults, some are really surprised at how it feels.”
The lenses, referred to as “fatal vision goggles” by law enforcement, alter the wearer’s perception to make them see what someone with a blood alcohol level of 0.17 would see. The legal blood alcohol limit for driving is 0.08.
The Sheriff’s Office set up their demonstration alongside the California Highway Patrol’s and the Napa Police Department’s booths on a stretch of driveway at the Napa Valley Expo informally dubbed “law enforcement row.” Curious passersby laughed in amusement as person after person tried on the goggles and attempted to walk in a straight line.
“It was very hard to walk at all,” said Grace Guzman, a 13-year-old Napa resident who shrieked in surprise as she tried to walk with the altered vision. “It makes me not want to drink ever.”
That was good news to the officers who manned the three booths. CHP spokeswoman Anna Paulson said that any chance officers have to interact with the public is one they don’t take for granted.
“We haven’t been to the fair in many years as an organization,” she said. “So we are very happy we were invited back this year. It gives us the opportunity to meet people outside of the typical traffic stop or arrest situation. And we’ve already helped find two lost kids. So it has been a great time for us.”
If hanging out with law enforcement and having your vision blurred isn’t your particular cup of tea, this year’s Town & Country Fair has many other activities to hold your interest – like the new carnival attraction run by Helm & Sons.
Carnival General Manager Corey Oakley said the fair’s new ride operators are thrilled to be in Napa this year. For the past 13 years, Helm & Sons has taken their large array of rides to the larger Sonoma County Fair in Santa Rosa, which used to run at the same time as Napa’s fair.
But this year, the Napa Valley Expo decided to move its hometown event from August to mid-July in an effort to avoid conflicts with the Sonoma County Fair and the start of Napa’s school year. For Oakley and his crew, the decision was a welcomed change.
“We’ve always wanted to do the Napa fair,” he said Thursday afternoon, as he watched the lines to his carnival rides grow longer by the minute. “My guys got here and were amazed at how nice it is. They said it’s like having a fair in a park, instead of the dusty fairgrounds we normally frequent.”
Bringing Helm & Sons to Napa was a major coup for the Expo. Joe Anderson, the Expo’s chief executive officer, had touted the change in fair dates as a way to attract new vendors to the city’s annual event. As of Thursday, his plan appeared to be working.
“There are only so many companies that offer fair activities,” said Oakley. “If you are overlapping your event dates with nearby fairs, you’re cutting the quality vendor’s availability in half.”
For Guzman, the rides this year are a vast improvement over last year’s offerings. “Every year, we come for the rides and the food,” said the lanky seventh grader. “I love the fair. And this year is really good.”
And if rides, animals, food and simulated drunkenness aren’t what you’re looking for, the fair has a plethora of other quaint activities. Thursday, when children under the age of 12 were admitted for free, featured a hilarious “Peanut Race” for kids.
Groups of youngsters gathered in a line at the Bandstand stage and held out empty spoons. A single peanut was placed on each spoon and children raced in a loop, trying to be the first to cross the finish line without dropping their peanut.
Ava, a 4-year-old participant in the 3- to 5-year-old category, had a blast attending her first Town & Country fair.
“We always wanted to go, but when it was later in the summer we just couldn’t make it work with our schedule,” said Napa resident Noemi Orozco, who brought Ava and two other children to the fair. “It’s been so much fun for us today.”
As the fair continues through the weekend, attendees can look forward to a host of new events, including the Bull-Ya! Bull riding competition on Friday, the Town & Country Talent Show presented by Luck Penny Productions on Saturday and the well-known Destruction Derby on both Saturday and Sunday.
For more information, visit http://www.napavalleyexpo.com/schedule.php.