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Cowboy culture takes the reins on fair’s opening day

San Diego County Fair’s Western-themed 2017 season got under way Friday afternoon and runs through July 4.

People ride the G Force during opening day of the San Diego County Fair at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in Del Mar on Friday. (Hayne Palmour IV/Union-Tribune)

With trick-roping, pony rides and card games in the new Painted Pony Saloon, San Diego County Fair’s Western-themed 2017 season got under way Friday afternoon.

By the time the gates opened at 4 p.m., nearly 500 people were queued up, with Margaret Austin first in line. The Escondido retiree arrived by bus at 8:30 a.m. so she could carry on her annual tradition of being first through the gates.

“With a name like Austin in grade school, I always hated being first, but at the fair, I love it,” she said.

Known by fair staff as the “pig lady” for her soothing ways with the racing piglets, the pink-attired Austin said she always buys a season pass and comes every day of the run, mostly to browse the art and woodworking exhibits, see the animals and garden show, and to place a few bets at the Surfside Race Place.

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