We bid adieu earlier this month to the 2018 Alameda County Fair, another successful installment of Pleasanton's annual summertime showcase.
And this year proved just as popular as ever, with 423,418 people coming to the fairgrounds during the 18-day run between June 15 and July 8 -- marking an increase in average daily attendance compared to the 2017 fair, which had two more days, according to 2018 totals recently released by fair officials.
The fun-filled fair featured food, attractions and activities to entertain all those who crowded through the main gate off Valley Avenue.
Fair-goers again chowed down on their favorite fried foods by the thousands, consuming 31,688 corn dogs, 29,997 funnel cakes and 658 deep-fried Twinkies -- plus other fair staples like 11,998 barbecue turkey legs and 4,235 orders of cotton candy.
The fifth annual Snackdown contest brought out a host of creative tasty treats, highlighted by the Grand Champion submission smokehouse tots. Other top finishers were Texas tater dog, Fruity Pebbles shrimp on a stick, strawberry shortcake milkshake and crazy cake.
Across the board, more than 18,000 entries were submitted to the fair's various competitive exhibits. Those indoor displays (especially on hot afternoons) proved a popular haven for attendees to check out categories such as artworks, photographs, calligraphy, baked goods, place-setting and collectibles.
Just under $16,400 in fine art pieces were sold during the fair. Add that to the $58,378 in small animal sales and $734,030 in sales from the junior livestock auction.
The horses were also a big draw, with 52,699 people taking in Oak Tree at Pleasanton during the 15 days of live horse racing.
The fair saw other high turnout in two of its more important categories, compared to 2017: 15% more pounds of food donated during the one-day food drive benefiting Alameda County Community Food Bank, and an astounding 418% increase in attendees contributing to the clothing drive.
Oh, and some 3,933 more dads took advantage of free admission on Father's Day (5,564 dads in all).
The fair also offered free admission to active military and veterans throughout its 2018 run, plus singled out first responders with free entry on Independence Day. That all in addition to gifting a free ticket to elementary school students in Alameda County and on June 23 bringing fair entertainment to families served by the George Mark Children's House, a home for critically and terminally ill kids.
Other fair highlights:
* 22,064 riders tried out the new Sky Ride, an overhead attraction spanning much of the fairgrounds.
* Thousands filled downtown Pleasanton on opening day to watch cowgirls and cowboys herd dozens of steer in the second annual cattle drive.
* The Red, White & Brew Craft Beer Fest, the Sip, Savor & Wager Wine Festival and the new Craft Cocktail Festival all drew capacity crowds to the racetrack's infield.
* The highest attended Big O Tires Concert Series shows included 38 Special, LeAnn Rimes, WAR, Smash Mouth, En Vogue, Blue Öyster Cult, Sean Kingston, Clay Walker and Sir Mix-a-Lot.
* Popular special attractions included extreme rodeo, monster trucks and demolition derby in the Action Sports Arena, and Alaskan pig races, Chinese acrobats, hypnotist Tina Marie and the Great American Petting Zoo elsewhere on the grounds.
* STEAM weekends ran four days each week, giving kids a chance to experience hands-on educational exhibits and activities.
Looking back on the 106th Alameda County Fair, CEO Jerome Hoban said it best: "The 2018 fair was indeed the perfect way to welcome in summer ... every day offered something fun and special. We appreciate everyone who came out and made the fair a part of their summer celebration."