With an average of 20,000 visitors each day, the Alameda County Fair attracts people from throughout the Bay Area to Pleasanton year after year.
Spending a day at the fair is a longstanding tradition for many. Visitors and vendors alike bring their families and friends to the fairgrounds each summer for a fun and memorable way to kick off the season.
"People come together from different areas, so it definitely brings the community together," Faye Li, a 22-year-old visiting the fair from San Jose, said as she fed animals in the petting zoo on June 21.
Themed "I Spy Summer," the 2019 Alameda County Fair opened on June 14 with the annual cattle drive, which saw some extra excitement this year when six cattle broke away from the herd, but the cowpoke swiftly brought the would-be runaways back to the pack.
The fair's attractions so far include carnival rides, games, food, concerts and horse racing, as well as a variety of contests -- ranging from botanical exhibitions to animal and tractor races -- and shopping opportunities.
Bobby and Stefanie Saephan, who came to the fair with their kids Riley and Jayden, agreed that their experience was characterized by "the family atmosphere." They said their favorite aspect of exploring the fair was "seeing the kids' reactions" to the activities.
On the south side of the fairgrounds are the carnival rides. One of the most popular parts of the fair, especially among youngsters and teens, this area flaunts roller coasters with thrilling 360-degree turns as well as a Ferris wheel, a water ride and more.
"That was a high ride. That was pretty scary. Right when you start it, you go super fast," 15-year-old John Addison exclaimed upon joining his friends on the ground after being swept up through the air on the tallest ride at the fair, Turbo.
After taking a turn on The Zillerator, 11-year-old Roma Witowski explained that, like the addictive nature of the roller coaster, "(Coming to the fair) is a tradition because we live close by so we come every single year."
On the opposite side of the fairgrounds, fair-goers can take refuge in a calmer atmosphere among the animals. "I love animals so it's always fun to feed them here (at the petting zoo)," Natalie Tran said of her favorite exhibit at the fair, adding that she liked "all of its entertainment value" and how it is "hands-on."
The Pleasanton showcase is a family affair for 12-year-old Cami Dobson, who came to town with her dad, Marc Dobson, from Florida to help with his traveling show, The One Man Band.
"We drove all the way across the United States, and this is his full-time job," she said. "During the summer and six months out of the year, he comes out to different fairs."
She said she admires "the fact that he created what he does and he's very creative. I don't plan on doing (music) for a living like he is, but I am starting to learn how to play the ukulele."
The 2019 fair wraps up its 18 days of summer fun this weekend with demolition derby on Friday and Saturday, and RV demolition derby on Sunday. Horse racing and a junior livestock auction will be open to animal-lovers. This STEAM weekend has a focus on educating kids on the environment and space.
Rosemary Dailey, of SkyRiver Butterflies, reflected on the exhibit she staffs with her husband, here for the second year running, which allows people to feed and interact with butterflies.
"We do very large exhibits around the country," she said. "We decided that we wanted to come here because we actually live in Castro Valley. This is a smaller show for us; we tend to do shows in the millions of people, so this is an opportunity for us to have a bit of a gentle environment."
"What we want to do is build it so families can come in here and, as the children grow up, they will bring their children -- we've seen this at other fairs -- and, more so than that, you start to see an understanding of what's necessary for butterflies," Dailey added.
The Big O Tires Concert Series continues into closing weekend with performances Friday night by Aja Vu, a tribute band to Steely Dan; blues and soul band Tommy Castro & The Painkillers on their Killin' It Live Record Release Tour on Saturday; and Vince Neil, lead singer of the metal band Mötley Crüe, onstage Sunday.
Cappi and Mike Santos from San Leandro have a "very big tradition" of coming to Pleasanton for the Alameda County Fair every year.
"We're getting ready to go see Loverboy," Mike said on June 21. Cappi added, "We always find at least one group we really want to see."
"We always run into friends here, and it's always a good time to check out all the different vendors and see what's for sale," Mike said.
For a full rundown on tickets and events for the closing weekend, visit annual.alamedacountyfair.com.