We said a fond farewell to the 2019 Alameda County Fair earlier this month, with the 107th year seeing a spike in attendance, new cultural events and increased consumption of classic fair food, specifically corn dogs and deep-fried Twinkies.
The fair concluded July 7 to cap an 18-day run full of thrilling rides, live horse racing, star-studded concerts, action sports, animals, cultural festivals and delicious fair foods.
Thousands of people turned out to watch the "Last Ride" of the Opening Day Cattle Drive on June 14. Crowds cheered on hundreds of cattle, cowboys and cowgirls, and fair entertainers as they tromped through Main Street in downtown Pleasanton for the final time.
This year's fair proved as popular as ever, with 454,276 people coming to the fairgrounds during the 18 days -- marking an increase of 7.3% in attendance compared to the 2018 fair, according to totals just released by fair officials.
The beautiful weather this year might account for that increase. Brutal heat during summer days in Pleasanton can deter people from going to the fairgrounds, but almost every fair day this year saw comfortable temperatures.
Of course, the last cattle drive, big-name concerts and new cultural events also boosted turnout.
Fair-goers again chowed down on their favorite fried foods by the thousands, consuming 35,320 corn dogs (an increase of 11.5% over last year), 33,684 funnel cakes and 784 deep-fried Twinkies -- plus other fair staples like 12,872 barbecue turkey legs and 4,852 orders of cotton candy.
There was a small uptick in fine art sales, with sales of $17,836 during the fair. Add that to the $67,671.74 in small animal sales, which was up 15.9%, and $716,391 in sales from the junior livestock auction.
The live horse racing was also a big draw, although attendance was a bit lower than 2018 with 49,483 people taking in Oak Tree at Pleasanton during the 15 days of racing this summer.
Attendees with a charitable spirit came through once again with 27,000 pounds of food, which equates to 22,500 meals, donated to benefit the Alameda County Community Food Bank and 6,736 people donating clothing, an increase of 23% over 2018.
In a new pet food drive, attendees donated 19,813 pounds of pet food.
One unfortunate occurrence happened during the final week of the fair when an R-rated movie was inadvertently played on a screen outside the funhouse, and kids and parents got an eyeful of a sex scene. The kid-friendly pirate movie had been accidentally switched with a very adult pirate movie. But the fair staff quickly changed the film and the fun continued.
Speaking of the midway, the addition of the new Mega-Flip ride drew thrill seekers to the carnival as it thrust riders high in the air while spinning and twisting. The Sky Ride, a cross-grounds attraction offering a bird's eye view of the fair, was also a popular fair feature and saw increased riders this year.
Other highlights this year were:
* Concert-goers packed the amphitheater nightly for the Big O Tires Concert Series, which featured performances from Ashanti, Trace Adkins, Gin Blossoms, Sheila E. and Vince Neil of Mötley Crüe.
* The fair introduced several new cultural festivals to celebrate the deep multicultural roots of the Bay Area, including an Asian Pacific Celebration, Out at the Fair and Bollywood at the Fair.
* The Action Sports Arena came alive each weekend with featured shows like extreme rodeo, Arenacross Nationals, monster trucks and demolition derby.
* STEAM weekends featured fun, hands-on educational exhibits and activities for kids with themes like agriculture and horticulture, engineering, electronics and robots, Lego Festival, Robot Day, and environment and space.
"With the Last Ride of the Cattle Drive, the great concerts and all our new special features, every day offered something fun for everyone," said Jerome Hoban, CEO of the Alameda County Fair. "We are so grateful to all who came out and continue to make the fair a part of their summer tradition."