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Alameda County Fair: The Fun Continues


By Kathy Rembisz

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It's ranked 33rd in the Top 50 Fairs in North America by, the sixth largest fair in California and took home 27 Western Fair Association (WFA) awards at the 90th Annual Achievement Awards Convention in Reno in January.  The Alameda County Fair clearly knows how to throw a great event.

This year, a strong opening day broke attendance records by offering $1 admission and $1 carnival rides at the largest single event in Alameda County. Held on a 270-acre facility in Pleasanton, Ca, the Alameda County Fair celebrated 101 years of providing family fun and entertainment June 19-July 7.

While attendance was down 26.8% this year to 391,426, seven days of temperatures over 100 degrees plus one day of rain was blamed for the decline, according to interim marketing manager Angel Moore.

The fair continues to be successfully operated by a non-profit fair association without any tax funding from the government. With an annual budget of $19 million, $400,000 was slated for advertising. The media mix was TV/radio, print, digital and social media.

"The strategic use of social media prior to and throughout the event helped to keep the public interested and interaction strong," Moore commented.

The fair utilized social media in several key ways. The event's Facebook page has over one million active monthly users. Through Facebook, attendees are notified of exclusive contests, giveaways and are the first to know about events at the fair and fairgrounds. In addition, Twitter was used throughout the event to post press releases to media contacts. Instagram, popular with the teen and early adults, offered a view of events through photos. In addition, through Instagram, attendees used a number provided by the Alameda County Fair to engage with family and friends. Finally, Pinterest allows the fair to showcase ideas to viewers long after the festivities are over.

Management was pleased to offer the "Feed the Need" food drive this year. This program encouraged fair goers to bring four non-perishable food items in exchange for free admission and $1 carnival rides. 

Gate admission for this year's fair was $10 for adults, $8 for seniors 62+, $6 for kids 6-12 years of age.

The carnival was provided by Butler Amusements of Fairfield, California. Butler introduced one of their newest rides, The Vertigo, this year. This thrilling ride towers over the midway at 100 feet and seats 24 passengers. The entire center twists in a circular motion, with riders swinging.

A variety of free entertainment acts were featured, including: Storyville, with stories for kids and visits from Curious George and the Berenstein Bears; World of Music Electronic Age; Jest In Time - Circus of Fools; Puzzlemania; Sudsy's Barn; RAY; Puppy Party Palooza; and Kids Pedal Tractor Pull.  In addition, attendees enjoyed Let's Pretend Entertainment; All Alaskan Racing Pigs; Great American Petting Zoo; Hypnotist Tina Marie; Farm Time Tour; Thank A Farmer Magic Show; Rock Bottom Boys; and Powerhouse Dance Team.

"Freestyle motorcross made their debut at the 2013 Alameda County Fair along with Capt'n Jack Spareribs, the comedy pirate," according to Moore. 

The fair also featured a nice selection of concerts this year, ranging from rock to the blues. One free concert was provided for attendees each night with fair admission. Headliners included acts such as The Marshall Tucker Band, Loverboy, Air Supply, Hinder, Kix Brooks, The Spinners, Evolution, Francesca Battistelli, , Pablo Cruise, Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds,  Los Caminantes, Caravanserai, Zepparella, and the Red, White & Blues Festival.  Weird Al Yankovic, Zendaya and Clay Walker were also notable concerts.

In addition, Russell Baze, North America's most winning jockey, won his 12,000th race at the Fair on the final day in a photo finish, a memorable moment for all.

Rounding out the entertainment at the fair were 75 food booths with a variety of delicious options for fair goers to enjoy. From Crispy Creme Donut Burgers and Hot Dog Sundaes to Gourmet Grilled Cheese and Deep Fried Nutella, attendees had no reason to leave hungry. In addition, Deep Fried Pot Tarts, Deep Fried Pineapple Upside Down Cake, Alligator Bites and Cajun Food were just a few of the selections available.

So, what's on the horizon for next year's Fair?

"The 2014 Alameda County Fair will mix traditional fair favorites and add some new and exciting exhibits with a patriotic twist," according to Moore.

Next year's fair dates are June 18 - July 6, 2014.

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