Searing heat with temperatures hovering near the 100 degree mark for several days didn't stop the 475,762 visitors to this year's Alameda County Fair.
Attendance was up 22% over 2013. Even receipts from fairgrounds parking rose 28% with 141,284 cars passing through the gates during the fair's 17-day run, which ended last Sunday. With new rides, games and shows, the midway was packed most days starting when the fair opened.
The return of fireworks to celebrate Independence Day, big name concerts and the inaugural season of Oak Tree horse racing combined to attract crowds from throughout the Bay Area.
This year's action-packed fair was welcome news especially for Jerome Hoban, who recently completed his first year as chief executive officer of the Alameda County Fair and Fairgrounds. He brought to Pleasanton more than 20 years of experience in the areas of fair management and facility operations at the Orange County Fair. The fair's long-time marketing and public relations planning expert Angel Moore also deserves congratulations for her non-stop efforts to promote the fair, its sponsors and events.
Many events and exhibits saw increases this year. These included a 10% increase in horse racing track attendance, totaling 54,532, and a 2% hike in on-track handle. The fair also saw a 124% increase in contests, including 1,538 whose stomachs braved such "nutrients" as spaghetti ice cream and another 1,401 stuffing themselves with Mac-n-Cheese bacon burgers. This year's winning treats, as at most fairs, were corn dogs, 128,000 consumed; funnel cakes, 27,748; turkey legs, 9.723; and lobster fries, 1,545.
There were 18,181 competitive exhibits and entries at this summer's fair in such contests ranging from fine arts to community talent. Small animal sales totaled $52,297, up 32% from a year ago, and the junior livestock auction produced $589,016 in sales, up 6%.
Fair philanthropy also increased, with fair-goers donating 29,745 pounds of food to the Alameda County Food Bank and making cash donations to various nonprofits of $3,053. In addition to hiring hundreds of temporary employees, the fair also enjoyed the services of 928 volunteers who served more than 10,000 hours to help fair patrons.
Although the Fair, which is on Alameda County property, doesn't directly bring extra sales tax and other revenue to Pleasanton, the more than half a million people who came to town for the Fair certainly left a share of their dollars at local restaurants, gas stations, nighttime entertainment spots, even hotels, and all these shared a bit of their earnings with the local tax collectors.
Even with this year's attendance significantly higher than a year ago, it still fell far short of the 534,577 who attended the 100th year celebration in 2012. Even so, a 22% year-over-year attendance gain this year continues to make this the fastest-growing fair in North America, a recognition it received in 2009. There are more than 3,000 similar fairs in the country, with Alameda ranked as the 39th largest.
The Alameda County Fair originated in 1859 in downtown Oakland as a Floral Fair. The first modern-day Fair in Pleasanton began in 1912, and has been held annually with the exception of the war years. The Fair's racetrack is the oldest one-mile horse racing track in America, dating back to 1858. The sons of Spanish Don Augustin Bernal constructed it, and wealthy horse owners shipped their horses from the East to Pleasanton for training during the winter months.
"It was an amazing Fair this year thanks to everyone that came out to celebrate the nation's birthday over the past three weeks," Marketing director Angel Moore said. "I can't wait to start planning next year's celebration as I guarantee it will be bigger and better than ever!" n