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San Mateo Fair tops five-year attendance record
Rides & concessions top five-year sales record


By Linda McNatt

Photo courtesy of Nick Rose

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 Things couldn't have gone any better at the San Mateo County Fair in San Mateo, California this year. The fair was held for nine days, from June 7 through 15, and Sandra Evans, who heads the public relations company that helps promote the fair, announced all of its 2014 success to the world.

"The 80th annual San Mateo County Fair exceeded attendance records for the previous five years with numbers reaching 128,040," Evans said in a press release. "This year's fair also topped five-year records in concession sales, carnival rides and other benchmarks and indicators used by fair management to track and measure results each year. The 2013 fair exceeded  120,000 attendees, representing a 20% increase over 2012."

Evans said the goals for the fair this year included attracting a Photo By Nick Rosemore diverse crowd, expanding the educational, technology and health-oriented programs and to attract more families. Fair highlights for  2014  included free concerts all nine days of the event, do-it-yourself exhibits, rainforest education, agriculture, carnival rides, pig races and more emphasis on having a family-friendly environment with a special mom's tent, agri-tourism booth and healthy food options in addition to traditional fair food.

"The success of this year's fair can be attributed to an outstanding team, which includes our board of directors, staff, volunteers, sponsors and exhibitors in addition to the expanded educational and health program," Evans said.

The San Mateo Fair began as a humble flower show in 1926. It was originally called "The Little Flower Show" and started as a community event held in various schools around San Mateo County by the Burlingham Garden and Flower Club. Finally, in 1935, during a fair revitalization period, the show was taken to its new home by the Bay Meadows Racetrack, where it is currently held. The name of the show has been changed from the Little Flower Show to San Mateo County Products and Floral Fiesta to San Mateo County Fair. The fairgrounds have undergone renovations as well. It now has eight buildings used almost every weekend of the year by the San Mateo County Event Center. 2014 was the 80th year the fair has been held in the same location.

Entertainment this year featured nine days of topnotch excitement. The slogan of the fair is "Where Tradition Meets Innovation," and the entertainment schedule lived up to that. The fair had a variety of world-class musical entertainment, live performances, fun festival food, local and traditional contests and a carnival.

There was a laser show on June 7 and, on June 8; a concert honoring the Beatles was presented by Graham Russell and Russell Hitchock. Evolution, the ultimate tribute to Journey, took the stage on Monday, June 9. This unique blend of incredible talented San Francisco Bay Area musicians brought the highest level of music to the audience while showing a true respect for the music of Journey, reviewers said.

Brian McKnight, who has released 13 albums, with several going two and three times platinum, appeared on Tuesday. McKnight also plays nine instruments including piano, guitar, bass, drums, percussions, trombone, tuba, flugelhorn and trumpet.

War, one of the most popular funk groups of the 1970s, appeared on Thursday, June 12.

Super Diamond appeared on Friday, June 13. The group has become one of the most popular live shows at major nightclubs, theaters, ballrooms and public events throughout the country. The Marshall Tucker Band was the special guest on Saturday, June 14.

There was plenty of entertainment as well on the streets all across the fairgrounds. The Cutest Show on Earth was a kind of mini-circus, especially for the little ones, as well as stilt walkers, clowns and acrobats.

Fairgoers paid one price for everything - both admission and entertainment, said Evans. There was an extra cost for carnival rides, but special prices for tickets were also available. A pay one price wristband good for any one day of carnival rides during the fair was available for $20. Admission to the fair was $10 for adults.

Butler Amusementswas in charge of the midway, and Evans said they couldn't have possibly provided more rides or more excitement. Butler also provided the food concessions. Rides included the Giant Wheel and The Freak Out which was new to the San Mateo Fair for 2014. The ride was manufactured by KMG in the Netherlands. The ride has an LED light package that is energy efficient and produces clear bright color while using 90 percent less power to operate. Once the ride begins, the seats slowly rotate as the entire boom begins to swing horizontally. The ride climax is reached as the boom reaches a height of over 40 feet in the air while the passenger seats rotate.
There was also the Zillerator Roller Coaster, the Energy Storm, the Thunderbolt, 1001 Nachts (nights), the Zipper, the Super Shot Drop Tower, the Yo Yo, the Gravitron, the Cyclone. For the younger set, Butler provided the Crown Merry Go Round, the Looney Tooney Train, the Jump Around and the Lolli Swing.

There was no cost to enter the contests, which were held daily. Those attending the fair were encouraged to do so, said Evans. The fair has held the contests for the last four years. There was the pie eating contest, the sponge wringing contest, the bubble gum blowing contest, the puzzle relay contest, the win-it-in-a-minute contest, the ultimate hula hoop contest, the zombie apocalypse survival contest, extreme apple bobbing contest and donuts on a string contest.

The pig races were especially popular for a lot of people who attended the fair, said Evans. There were a lot of people there who acted like they'd never seen a pig, she said.

The fair was advertised through radio, television, billboards and social media in the San Francisco Bay area, according to Evans. San Mateo is located about 30 minutes from San Jose, California and 25 minutes from downtown San Francisco.

The 2015 San Mateo Fair will be held from June 6 through June 14.

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