Despite several days of searing heat with temperatures hovering in the upper 90s, the Alameda County Fair closed out July 4 with a standing-room-only crowd for its annual fireworks spectacular. Attendance totaled 450,806, well over last year's 444,923 but still short of the record-high 534,577 set in 2012.
Some 51,376 squeezed through the gates for the Independence Day festivities, that included the Oakland Symphony, the Big O Tires concert series and the final day of horse racing, although the races will return for a first-time Fall meet Sept. 23-25 and 30 and again on Oct. 2. Horse racing in Pleasanton has special appeal with 44,443 watching the meets before the fair closed.
Although the Fair, which is on Alameda County property, doesn't directly bring extra sales tax and other revenue to Pleasanton, the nearly 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.
There were 19,011 competitive exhibits and entries at this summer's fair ranging from fine arts to "Snackdown" contests. Small animal sales totaled $48,621 with receipts for the junior livestock auction totaling a whopping $824,700.
Many events and exhibits also drew big numbers, including the 50,023 corn dogs sold to an apparently hungry public, along with 16,512 barbecued turkey legs, 24,463 funnel cakes and 25,087 cups of lemonade to wash it all down.
Fair-goers also dug into their home pantries and donated 15,691 pounds of food to the Alameda County Food Bank and another 427 "care" packages for the Blue Star Moms to send to troops in Afghanistan and the Middle East. To help with this philanthropy, 670 community volunteers donated 9,800 hours of their time during the 18-day fair.
Other Fair highlights:
Kool & the Gang, Tower of Power, Smash Mouth, LeAnn Rimes and The Guess Who were among the top-attended shows presented by the Big O concert series.
The Fair's first "Red, White & Brew Fest," a craft beer festival held at the Fair's infield track July 2, drew more than 1,300 craft beer fans.
The newly expanded Action Sports Arena featured
different shows each weekend, including Extreme Rodeo, Monster Trucks and Demolition Derby.
The Junior Livestock Auction on July 3 achieved a record-breaking sale when a special pig named "Courage" sold for $108,000, or approximately $400 a pound. The pig was auctioned as a fundraiser to benefit Keegan Cowell Lyons, a 5-year-old Livermore boy battling leukemia.
The third annual Snackdown produced a new grand champion for 2016: the Churro Gelato Sandwich. Other top winners included the Chile Relleno Burrito, Pickled Cheese on a Stick and Deep Fried Nachos. "The Elvis," a big burger topped with peanut butter and jelly, thick-cut bacon and a fried egg, didn't take a prize but did win a lot of foodie hearts and attention.
Along with the new attractions, Fair fans also enjoyed perennial favorites, including the Alaskan pig races, carnival rides and games, educational exhibits and Kay's Ladies Day at the Races (see photo), which celebrated its 25th year June 16 with more than 100 women in the grandstand for the annual event organized by Pleasanton civic leader Kay Huff.