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California Mid-State Fair Celebrates Lucky Number 77
Helm & Sons Reports increased spending

Helm & Sons Amusements Posted Record Revenue
The show reported a 4% increase in midway spending at the 2023 Mid-California State Fair.

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Held annually at the Paso Robles Event Center, the California Mid-State Fair concluded a successful 77th year July 30th.  Originally called the San Luis Obispo County Fair when it began in 1946, 2023 saw high turnout for its theme of “Shake, Rattle, and Roll.”

Replete with concerts, fun fair food, and of course, carnival rides – here provided by Helm and Sons, the fair ran daily for 12 days, and was open 4 p.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday and noon to midnight Friday - Sunday.

Admission at the gate was priced at $10 for kids 6-12, $12 for seniors 62 and over, and $15 for those 13-61. Kids five and under were admitted free. Of course, there were also special fair days.  On Seniors Day, July 21, seniors received half-off admission prices; on Kids Day, July 28, kids 12 and under were admitted free. July 29th was Armed Forces Day, on which both active or retired military with a valid ID were admitted at no charge.

July 20th marked Cattlemen and Farmers Day, celebrating regional achievements in agriculture. Industrial Arts were celebrated as well with a BBQ steak dinner, at which awards were given out for Cattleman of the Year, Cattlewoman of the Year and Agriculturalist of the Year. Tickets for this event were $40. Award winners were George Donati, Agriculturalist of the Year; Suze Evenson, CattleWoman of the Year; and Mike Massey, Cattleman of the Year.

On the fair's closing day, July 30, fairgoers witnessed a parade of restored antique tractors, part of the JB Dewar Tractor Restoration program conducted by local high school students.

Of course, the crowd enjoyed both 4-H and FFA Exhibitors, and the return of the popular La Cantina dance floor, as well as Barnyard Races.

CEO Colleen Bojorquez was delighted with the success of the event, saying “The support from the community to celebrate the traditions of San Luis Obispo County and to see the staff's hard work is truly inspiring. We couldn't do it without you.”

Over 334,000 attended the fair, up 0.5% percent from last year. A fully detailed account of attendance is still forthcoming. There was an even larger increase on carnival spending.  Helm and Sons Amusements, Inc. reported that they brought in $1.67 million during the 12-day event, a 4% increase from 2022. And double that amount was spent on food and beverages, with concessions reporting approximately $3 million in sales. Food vendors offered everything from the ubiquitous funnel cakes to quesadillas and burritos, crepes, pizza, grilled cheese, hot dogs, and both ice cream, frozen yogurt, and Dole Whip for summer cooling treats.  

On opening day, Helm and Sons offered free rides to all fair attendees from 4 p.m. to midnight with fair admission. Big draws among the rides included Alien Abduction, the Haunted Mansion, Insomniac, Medusa, and the Zipper. Little attendees enjoyed a visit to Cub Country, a special area of the carnival for smaller kids, where rides included a baby wheel, a cub swing, and the large family friendly Century Wheel, as well as the popular Frog Hopper and Kiddie Scrambler among other rides.

The livestock auctions raised $2,689,519 on 770 animals with $672,000 from the Replacement Heifer Sale and $2,017,519 came from the Junior Livestock Auction. Both were increases over sales from last year. The Small Animal Auction raised $7,737.

The Industrial Arts Auction raised $225,550 on 61 projects, a $34,000 increase from last year, and the most ever raised from this event, which began 23 years ago.

Concerts were a big hit, too. Held in the Chumash Main Grandstand over 91,000 attendees, several thousand more than last year, showed up, selling out the Luke Bryan concert, and drawing close-to-full attendance for concerts by Pitbull, Tim McGraw, Nelly, and Los Tucanes de Tijuana. It was McGraw's eighth performance on the main stage at the California Mid-State Fair and Bryan's second. Bryan's tickets sold out in just a week and half.

Ticket prices for Tim McGraw were $50, $75, $90, $150, and $175; for Bryan $50, $85, $130, $155, and $175. Los Tucanes de Tijuana tickets were priced at $30, $50, and $75.

There were also free music events at 805 Beer Stage, including Elvis impersonator Shake, Rattle, & Roll, Legends in Concert tributing British music icons such as Elton John, Freddie Mercury, Rod Stewart, and Adele. Ned LeDoux, Los Morros del Norte, Scotty McCreery, and new wave act A Flock of Seagulls, were also a part of this music stage, as were Ben Haggard, son of Merle, and Iam Tongi, the winner of Season 21 of American Idol. Rounding out the venue's concerts were country rock performer Tyler Rich, The Original Wailers, and country artist Shane Profitt.

And what about exhibits? There were plenty, from photography to home design, with over 7,673 entries, both adult and youth, a rise from last year's 6,206.

Then there were activities, from the Barnyard Racers to the Diaper Dash, free train rides, the KJUG Barn Dance, and the kids' Pedal Tractor Race.

Demonstrations were also in abundance, including an Apple Pie Contest, craft demonstrations, a draft horse demo, salsa making, and performances by the Dragon Knights Stilt Walkers, as well as the SLO County Farm Bureau Exhibit.

One much anticipated event was the Central Coast Wine Competition, where the Peachy Canyon Winery was the 2023 Winery of the Year. Craft spirits did not receive short shrift either, with two divisions, one for spirits made in California, and the other for makers outside the state.  Best of Show/Best of Class Whiskey was KROBAR of San Luis Obispo, Calif., with their single malt whiskey.

And yet there was more, including the well-attended rodeo events, the choosing of Miss California Mid-State Fair, and the Annual Free Pancake Breakfast. The event served 1,500 hungry diners this year, double last year's attendance. The event was hosted by the California Mid-State Fair and the Paso Robles Main Street Association. After dining, there were train and horse rides around the park.

On the fair's closing day, a new show, Extreme Truck Madness, was held in the Main Grandstand Arena, an event that included a parachute flag drop, mud pits and obstacle courses.  Like the Wrangler Country Rodeo Finals held Saturday at the arena, these separately ticketed events were both popular, with seating ranging between $15 and $30.

Crammed with fun, the California Mid-State Fair definitely enjoyed a “lucky 77.”
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