Big Fresno Fair's trumpet player popular with fans

FRESNO, Calif.

Lloyd Ellis has been playing his trumpet at the Fresno Fairgrounds for 28 years.

When fans hear his music they know the races are around the corner. But Lloyd says even after all these years he still gets nervous every time he performs.

When you think about horse racing, faithful fans, competitive jockeys and, for winners, lots of cash might come to mind.

"It's always fun to win money if you can, it's just fun to win anything," Anthony Morrison of Fresno said.

"It's a tradition for us, we come and we enjoy it and we have a fabulous time," Jan Stewart of Fresno said.

When you're talking about racing horses at the Big Fresno Fair, Ellis is a man you've probably seen.

"We love to see him year after year. I have never seen anybody else but him and we absolutely adore him," Stewart said.

"I go out approximately 10 minutes before every race and I play what's called the Call to Post. And literally I am the one who announces to the public 'get ready the horses are about to come out'," Ellis said.

Ellis has played his trumpet on the circuit for the past 28 years and still gets the butterflies.

"Standing out in front of all those people playing such an easy song that everybody knows and every time I make one tiny little blip you can hear them like, 'aww'," Ellis said.

Nearly three decades ago the Selma native wrapped up playing gigs in New York and Vegas and came home to be closer to family.

Back then the out-of-work musician needed a job fast. When he tried his luck at the fair: "they said well we only have one job available and it's this job of playing at the horse races? And I said no kidding, I'll take it," Ellis recounted.

Since then Ellis has played his signature tune thousands of times and still finds a way to make it his own.

"This next race I am going to throw a little jazz lick at the end," Ellis said.

But the man who spends so much time around gamblers isn't a betting man himself.

Still his fans say everyone wins if Lloyd Ellis keeps on coming back.

"I'd like to keep going, I'd like to at least do 30," Ellis said.

When he's not playing the trumpet at the fair Ellis teaches music at Reedley College.

Fair organizers tell me they're happy to book him at the fair for as long as he wants to keeping playing.

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