Despite sluggish economy, Alameda County Fair had 2nd highest attendance in 20 years

Even a weekend of blistering temperatures didn't stop 418,000 from enjoying fastest growing fair in U.S.

More than 418,000 fairgoers decided to "Come Out and Play" at this year's Alameda County Fair.

With the second highest attendance in 20 years, the fair saw a 19 percent increase over 2008, and just 3 percent less than the 2009 fair's record- setting attendance, according to April Mitchell, manager of event sales and marketing.

In 2009, the Alameda fair was rated the "Fastest Growing Fair in America" with a record 22 percent increase in attendance. Ranking 41st on the list of the Top 50 North American Fairs, the Alameda County event is one of the largest fairs in California and is the largest event in Alameda County.

Of the families and enthusiasts from throughout the region, many came to satisfy their annual craving for a signature corndog or funnel cake, Mitchell said. Fairgoers were also attracted by a spectacular fireworks show, eating contests, horse races and nightly entertainment. Some came just to eat food on-a-stick like the fair's featured chocolate covered bacon or anything deep-fried.

In the current economy, many regional fairs have experienced challenges and reduced attendance numbers this year, Mitchell said. Consequently, Alameda County Fair officials are extremely pleased with attendance for the 2010 Fair.

"We want to thank the many guests who came out to play at the Alameda County Fair these past two weeks," said Rick Pickering, CEO of the Alameda County Agricultural Fair Association. "In this difficult economy, we are honored that so many people chose to invest their time with family and friends at the fair this summer."

Although the amount wagered at the county fair racetrack was down 10 percent this year--$34,417,963, compared to $38,521,097 in 2009--fair officials said the wagering was better than expected given this year's economic downturn and other unusual circumstances. These included the fact that the fair ran 12 percent fewer races this year due to the reduction of thoroughbreds in California. Hollywood Park cancelled three days of racing. All major East Coast tracks closed for a day due to extreme heat. Enthusiasm and daytime television viewing of the World Cup served as another distraction. Overall the Alameda County Fair's decrease in wagers was better than the decrease experienced at Golden Gate Fields' spring race meet.

New attractions and events at the fair such as Mutton Bustin', Puppy Party Palooza, Big Green Race and Hot Dog Relay Contest played a big part in this year's success.

Concert performances by acts including Uncle Kracker, Tower of Power, Crystal Gayle, Con Fun Shun, Newsboys, Lonestar and War were filled to capacity. Other popular attractions were the fair's AgVenture Park featuring agricultural edutainment and Festival Square's themed weekends that included "Fiesta Hispania," "Celebrate Americana Music" and "Spice of India."

The fair's Kids Park continued to be a draw for families with attractions such as the Jest In Time Circus of Fun shows, Super Science, Kaleidotainment and Picasso's Place exhibits.

Pickering said that a variety of dance lessons, cooking tips, cultural music, competitive food-judging presentations and demonstrations rounded out the fair's potpourri of offerings.

"Competitive exhibits, animals and agricultural elements of our fair continue to be crowd favorites," he said. "We also saved the lives of more than 100 dogs, by adopting them out to caring fair families."

These dogs had previously been scheduled to be euphonized.

Also during this year's fair:

• Donations to the Alameda County Food Bank totaled more than 5 tons of food.

• The average amount paid per animal at the Junior Livestock Auction was up 4 percent to $495,284.

• Total entries at competitive exhibits totaled 16,185, up 2 percent from a year ago.

• But total competitive exhibitors at 4,237 were down 4 percent, although many exhibitors have more than one entry.

For those who ignored the extra calories and cholesterol in food that's unique to county fairs, numbers released yesterday also show they had plenty of company:

• Corn Dogs – 79,882 consumed

• Funnel Cakes – 21,437 consumed

• Shaved Ices – 10,312 consumed

• Turkey Legs – 5,026 consumed

• Cinnamon Rolls – 5,113 consumed

A complete listing of Competitive Entry Winners will be posted on the fair's website by month's end.

For more information, please visit, or call (925) 426-7600.

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Like this comment
Posted by Frequent Fair-goer
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Jul 14, 2010 at 10:57 am

This year's County Fair was one of the best in recent memory. The weather was outstanding, and my 11-year-old attended at least a half dozen times. Besides the horse racing, I really liked the "Muttin' Bustin'" competition ... what a fun attraction!! To be sure we spent a lot of cash at the fair, over $100 each time on rides, food, beer, etc. ... but it was well worth it!!!

Like this comment
Posted by Davis
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 14, 2010 at 6:09 pm

Vaudeville became tremendously popular also during the first depression. Entertainment outlets prosper in difficult times. We need the distraction.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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