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Around Pleasanton: July 4 fireworks halted at fair, this time for good

Uploaded: May 25, 2018
Alameda County Fairgrounds CEO Jerome Hoban (pictured) spoke to the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce about a range of topics earlier this month, including the cancellation of the Fourth of July fireworks spectacular.

The popular and long-traditional Independence Day fireworks show at the Alameda County Fair has been canceled, and this time it's probably for good.

Alameda County Fairgrounds CEO Jerome Hoban told those of us attending a recent Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce forum that the decision to close the fairgrounds at 6 p.m. on July 4 was made by his Board of Directors with the concurrence of both the Alameda County Sheriff's Office and the Pleasanton Police Department.

The decision came after a review of fights last year that led to the arrest of seven people when a melee broke out on the midway, disrupting Independence Day festivities at the fairgrounds. This only three years after the return of fireworks at the fairgrounds after a 1998 Fourth of July shooting incident.

I was at the fair with my family at the time, and we took shelter behind a food stand as the gunman, later identified as a 23-year-old Richmond man, opened fire, causing a stampede that injured 16 people.

Sheriff's deputies nabbed and stopped the shooter. The fairgrounds were closed immediately and a moratorium was imposed until 2014, when the fair's curfew was lifted and fireworks resumed.

Hoban said that ending the fireworks show and closing the fairgrounds early on Independence Day was a tough decision. Nearly half-a-million people jammed the gates at the 2014 fair, with record crowds on July 4 when the fireworks show started again.

"People came just to see the fireworks on July 4th because they hadn't had them in so long," a fair spokeswoman said. "It was the biggest day of the fair, with 57,000 attending throughout the day."

The return of fireworks, big-name concerts and the inaugural season of Oak Tree horse racing combined to attract the largest crowds ever from throughout the Bay Area.

"But with the ever-increasing crowds on the holiday (and after last year's melee), we made the decision in conjunction with the sheriff to make sure we never go back to the reputation the fair acquired some 20 years ago when we had that shooting," Hoban said.

"We're just taking this extra precaution so as not to tarnish our reputation again," he explained. "It's not worth one unbelievable night of business to ruin a reputation."

Although the live Fourth of July fireworks show has ended, the fair will continue to offer a pyrotechnical show every other night after dark.

Hoban also told the chamber forum that the fair, which began in 1859 in downtown Oakland as a floral event and moved to Pleasanton as the first county fair in 1912, is undertaking major improvements on its 270 acres of fairgrounds.

A new community Youth Barn is under construction to serve youths interested in raising animals for the Junior Livestock Show held at the annual fair. The amphitheater will be expanded with more seats and a new backstage complex with major video components. Some of the older exhibit halls will eventually be replaced.

Most significantly, Hoban announced that the Alameda County Fair Association board, which oversees the fairgrounds, voted earlier this month to seek a developer to build and operate an upscale branded hotel and convention center on a 5-7-acre parcel on the fairgrounds, facing Valley Avenue near Bernal.

Hoban told the chamber forum that the new complex would be under the jurisdiction of the city of Pleasanton and would serve the needs of the thousands of participants and visitors to fairgrounds events, including the Goodguys car show and other special events.

He said the hotel would add to other related businesses on the property, including an off-track betting facility, RV storage, RV campgrounds, a nine-hole golf course and driving range and a racehorse training facility.
What is it worth to you?


 +   21 people like this
Posted by Jim Reynolds, a resident of Kottinger Ranch,
on May 27, 2018 at 8:05 am

If I recall there are adults on the board. I know that it's easier to shut down the fireworks so you can go to bed earlier than to fight for hometown memories for thousands of kids and adults. We can't let 10 or so punks control the fun for thousands of people that enjoy the American tradition. Keep in mind it's not just the teenage boyfriend and girlfriend kissing under the fireworks at the fair, there are thousands of people in surrounding parks and homes who love this tradition.

Can we try to come up with creative solutions?

Okay as I see it, here are the parameters to the puzzle
1. Punks like to hang out by the rides and gates. You will not find them at the race track, kids area or goat and cow barns. Okay now we have narrowed it down to 15% of the fairgrounds.
2. Punks hate classical or christian music. They get jacked up on the music that you play in the ride area for example Metallica " Seek and Destroy or Guns N' Roses " Welcome to the jungle
3. Most valiance comes from males. When you have young Men who don't have fathers who will kick their butt for bad behavior and you give them alcohol, they tend to express themselves with their fist.

Given these parameters to the puzzle here are just a few ideas
1. Make 4th of July Military and Police officer Night, all Military and Police personal get in free.
2. Blast patriotic classical music from all parts of the fairgrounds the whole day
3. Invite Christian bands on the 4th of July
4. Host a boxing match using sumo suits or over-sized boxing gloves with a cash prize for the top 3.
5. Invite outreach groups into the fairgrounds who will talk to troubled teens
6. Have prominent speakers or local churches host events.
7. Do not sell any alcohol after 6:00 PM on the 4th of July. I love beer but I would rather go without a beer after 6:00 than kill the American tradition of fireworks and celebrating our country and what we stand for.

I'm sure there are better ideas but shutting down an American tradition because of a few bad people does not make sense. Let's follow this through. Let's say that there was some issue on Tuesday night so let's shut down Tuesday and Wednesday every year. Oooops something happened on a Monday after the home and garden event. Let's shut down home and garden show. There was a argument in the arts and crafts building that lead to a physical altercation so we need to shut down the arts and crafts building. Instead of running can we face this issue head on and make tough choices? Bringing in metal detectors for the gun issue was a good solution.

Jim Reynolds

 +   7 people like this
Posted by Jim Reynolds, a resident of Kottinger Ranch,
on May 28, 2018 at 12:47 pm

One other comment. What if after you kill the 4th of July at the fair and some punks in the future hurt someone at the fair, should we close the fair?

What if after killing the fair some violence happened on the 4th of July that we can't face head on, should we kill 4th of July for the State?

I posted a Poll on Next Door. It would be good to get other feedback
Web Link

 +   4 people like this
Posted by Angela Brabant, a resident of Downtown,
on May 28, 2018 at 1:32 pm

So, again, the bad guys win? Will we continue to shutter any sort of crowd excitement because of a few monsters?

The killing 20 years ago? Do locals cut off access to certain streets or plazas, forever, after a shooting?

 +   2 people like this
Posted by Jim Reynolds, a resident of Kottinger Ranch,
on May 28, 2018 at 1:44 pm

OR Close the fair at 6pm so everyone can enjoy the fireworks. I'm sure the board can come up with more ideas

 +   2 people like this
Posted by Darlene , a resident of Downtown,
on May 28, 2018 at 1:53 pm

I agree. I think letting a couple thugs ruin it for the rest of us isn't fair to our community. We have enjoyed the fair for years.
I think closing the fair at 6:00pm is a great idea. this will eliminate all the traffic early. Our streets were at a stand still from 11:00am-11:30pm last year. People were driving across our front lawn to cut a few people off. Fights broke out on our streets from the frustration of gridlock. The police were nowhere to be seen! After talking to police officer a few days after the fair he said they can't get trapped in traffic so they stay on the pentameter directing traffic. I vote on closing fair at 6 and pleasanton should set up more locations where people can safely watch the fireworks.

 +   5 people like this
Posted by reasonable, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on May 28, 2018 at 6:52 pm

How about closing alcohol sales and gates at 6 pm. Close the "adult' rides and midway at 8 pm and the 'kiddie' rides at 9 am. By that point, most of the "troublemaker" crowd will get bored and prefer to go offsite where they can drink. The fairgrounds itself will draw families, and the kiddie rides and food booths will keep everyone entertained until the fireworks start. Another choice (and I seemed to recall this was the case at one point) is to have fireworks on the last night of the fair, not coinciding with the 4th of July. Fireworks are such an iconic part of the Alameda county fair that it would be a big shame to eliminate them completely.

 +   2 people like this
Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on May 29, 2018 at 9:16 am

I'm delighted to know that children,families,communities will be safer without the dangerous risk of fireworks! Gracias!

None of above arguments make much sense to this one. nope...

 +   5 people like this
Posted by Try a better way, a resident of another community,
on May 29, 2018 at 11:23 am

There are great suggestions in these comments that you should try before cancelling the event. Solve the problem by not punishing all the good people. How about the 4th of July be a dry day and call it an Old Time Celebration. No alcohol sold that day and try to keep it out at the gate. Limit the number of people allowed in the fair and close the parking lot before that number is reached on the 4th. Turn people away and no in and out stamps after a certain time. That will prevent people that are going to their cars to drink from getting back in.Just a thought.

 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Bryan Waugh, a resident of Pleasanton Heights,
on May 29, 2018 at 4:17 pm

Just for the record, there was no "killing 20 years ago". There was a shooting at the midway in 1998, yes, and I believe it was 10 people injured, but none fatally.

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