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California's Stanislaus County Fair features unique food items

3/20/2015

By Linda McNatt

Photo courtesy of

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National Food Network star Noah Cappe made headlines this summer when he toured carnivals and fairs across the country. At the Stanilaus County Fair in Turlock, California, Cappe enjoyed lobster, corn dogs, doughnut sandwiches, deep-fried frogs legs and a loaf of curly fries. The tasting extravaganza was featured on the national television show's "Carnival Eats" late last year.

But Cappe may have missed out on some other real treats, said volunteers serving food at the fair.

The Rotary Club, for example, sold beer floats for $8. The floats were a popular item. Even people who don't normally drink alcoholic beverages seemed to enjoy the refreshing concoctions. One of them combined a dark Guinness with chocolate and another added orange cream soda to Blue Moon beer. Both of the floats cPhoto By ame with ice cream and whipped cream.

The nonprofit groups, like the Rotary, did very well at the Stanislaus County fair this year, said fair spokesman Adrenna Alkhas. The money they make goes toward community efforts like education, medical treatment for military veterans and church renovations, she said.

Rotary Club volunteers developed the beer floats themselves after a group of volunteers met one night to try some beer/ice cream pairings to see which ones worked.
The group has already decided that the floats will return for the fair next year.

Nonprofit vendors, like commercial vendors, must hand over 22.5 percent of the money they make to the fair.  And the Rotary Club wasn't the only successful non-profit vendor. The Knights of Columbus typically raise about $8,000 to $10,000 at the fair each year. The money the club was raising this year was slated for remodeling the kitchen at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Turlock.

The fair was held from July 11 through July 20 in the second largest city in Stanislaus County, California. Turlock is about 93 miles south of Sacramento, the state's capital city, between Modesto and Merced. Agriculture is the major economic force in the region.

The fairgrounds are located on 72 acres in the city, and part of it was used during World War II to house Japanese/American citizens serving as prisoners of war.
"We consider ourselves very lucky to have such a supportive community," Alkhas said in a press release. "The fair, at its core, has a lot of history embedded on its grounds and is a special event for the community."

The fair started in 1911 as a small melon carnival. Local famers donated the melons for members of the community to feast on while they celebrated the agriculture in the community. The fair wasn't held during the years of World War I, and, in the 1920s, operation of the fair was taken  over by the American Legion.

The fair was also canceled for a few years during World War II. The Stanilaus County District Agricultural Association later took over the business side of the fair.
This year, approximately 239,000 people attended the fair during its 10-day run, up 6 percent from last year. Numbers showed an increase in attendance, concessions and ride sales.

There were additional success stories in the signups for the Kids Club. More than 1,000 youngsters signed up for the club. There were also 4,300 new downloads of the Stanislaus County Fair's new mobile app.

Fairgoers took advantage of the free services offered by the Stanislaus County Fair with more than 15,872 guests taking the free park and ride service from Pitman High School and California State University, Stanislaus. More than 31,000 guests took advantage of the free admission until 3 p.m. on both Sundays of the fair. 

"In addition to a successful year filled with many high valued programs, we wanted to give back to the community by providing a chance for many to enjoy the fair for free," Chris Borovansky, chief executive officer of the Stanislaus County Fair, said in a press release.

There were nearly 30,000 individual entries exhibited at the Fair, including more than 3,700 floriculture exhibits and 2,100 photography exhibits.

"The exhibit program is what sets us apart from other Fairs in the state," said Alkhas. "The true mark of a fair's success is not in attendance numbers, but in positive exhibitor participation and happy fair guests."

Livestock increased entry numbers and total gross sale of animals sold at fair auctions exceeded $1.3 million. Future Farmers of America and 4-H members sold 125 heifers at their 47th annual Replacement Heifer Sale, grossed $516,350, or $4,212 per head. Lane Wheeler of Turlock FFA was the Supreme Champion and sold his heifer for $5,600 and  Mya O'Brien of Shiloh 4-H was Reserved Supreme Champion, selling her heifer for $8,000.

The 50th annual Junior Livestock Auction grossed $795,262. FFA and 4-H members sold four poultry pens, 22 rabbits, 138 goats, 193 sheep, 418 swine, and 33 steers at auction.

The FoodMaxx Arena was home to seven nights of motorsports, two nights of rodeo, and a laser light show. Both destruction derbies were well attended.

All 10 celebrity concerts on the Bud Light Variety Free Stage drew large crowds. 

The annual fair typically employs about 550 people, working in shifts around the clock. It offers downtown Turlock a business boost, said Alkhas, and the segment on the Food Network will show off the area in a positive light.

The midway was provided by Butler Amusements of Fairfield, California. 

Just before the Stanislaus County Fair was set to close, Alkhas said her favorite part of the event is seeing "the community come together and looking at the excitement on people's faces."


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