Despite an opening week with record-high temperatures, the Alameda County Fair closed out its extended 20-day run July 9 with total attendance of 463,783, a five-year high though still short of the record-setting 534,577 who squeezed through the gates in 2012.
Horse racing had special appeal with 45,662 watching the meets before the fair closed, a 5% increase over last year.
All of that is good news for Pleasanton businesses, nonprofits and even city taxpayers who benefited. Even though the fair doesn't directly bring extra sales tax and other revenue to Pleasanton, the nearly half-million people who came to town 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.
Tina Olson, the city's director of finance, reports that Pleasanton earned $235,350 in sales taxes in the third quarter of 2016, when most of last year's county fair took place. It's expected this year's receipts will be even higher.
Besides the extended run, fair aficionados had an extra treat as thousands watched cowboys commandeer 150 steers through downtown Pleasanton to officially open the fair June 16. Especially pleased were downtown restaurants and retail shops that saw their businesses boom after the morning's cattle drive.
There were 17,836 competitive exhibits and entries at this summer's fair ranging from fine arts to "Snackdown" contests, which saw Doritos corn-on-the-cob crowned as the new grand champion of exotic foods. Runners-up were deep-fried mac and cheese balls and the gelato donut sandwich. Also on the food menu, fair-goers consumed 34,103 corn dogs, 32,904 funnel cakes, 16,998 turkey legs and 23,719 cups of lemonade.
Yet even with full stomachs, fair-goers kept the hungry and needy in mind, donating nearly 24,000 pounds of food to the Alameda County Community Food Bank, a 60% increase over last year. And volunteers collected 1,045 articles of clothing for foster kids living in the Bay Area.
The fair offered free admission tickets to every elementary school student in the county, while Butler Amusements provided unlimited ride wristbands to kids and their families from the Ronald McDonald house at Stanford.
Other fair highlights:
* Small animal sales totaled $58,754 with receipts for the junior livestock auction totaling a whopping $703,574 along with a few tears from the 4-H club members who raised them over the winter months.
* Sheila E, Clint Black, Sugar Ray, Wynonna & the Big Noise and John Michael Montgomery were among the top-attended shows presented by the Big O Tires Concert Series.
* The "Red, White & Brew Fest" and "Sip, Savor and Wager" wine festival both drew huge crowds for the special infield wine tasting events at the race track.
* The newly expanded Action Sports Arena featured different shows each weekend, including Extreme Rodeo, Monster Trucks and a demolition derby.
Other favorites that attracted large crowds included the Alaskan pig races, Freestyle Motocross, Chinese acrobats, the American petting zoo with its newborn pigs and, of course, the non-stop carnival rides and games.
"It's been one of the best fairs in every way," said Jerome Hoban, CEO of the Alameda County Fair. "We sincerely appreciate the community's enthusiasm and support for the first-ever opening day cattle drive, the stellar concert lineup, our 4th of July celebration and an amazing season of horse racing."
Horse-racing will return between Sept. 21 and Oct. 1 when the Pleasanton fairgrounds hosts its second fall race meet.