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New Operator Helps Grow California's Placer County Fair

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There was plenty new and traditional fun at the Placer County Fair this year. The fair's theme, “A Good Thing Growing,” was especially apt for the newly renovated fairgrounds in Roseville, Calif. The fairgrounds are now operated by Placer Valley Tourism, and have been renamed @theGrounds.

Nightly fireworks were part of the draw this year, at an event which also included a lot of record breaking. While attendance numbers are not yet tallied, attendance is up this year from last year, and so are exhibit records – 873 submissions this year.  

According to Placer Valley tourism public relations coordinator Amy Looney, “Still Exhibits Hall is a great way to highlight what makes our county special.”

This is the second year since Placer Valley Tourism has taken over the fairgrounds. The four-day fair, which ran June 20-23rd, was primarily open in the evening hours to beat the heat, but Sunday June 23rd was Family FUNday, and on that day the fair was open noon to 11 p.m.

Johnson Hall was transformed into Placer Place, with community booths and stage performances that included local artists such as Bach to Rock, Jaime's Martial Arts, Thrive Cardio Drums, Studio 65 Dance, and even the T5 Troupe singing Mamma Mia favorites. “They were very diverse, but all community driven performances and entertainers, we had singers, and bands, and martial arts exhibits; Thrive cardio drumming was very popular, and they did an amazing job.”

There were interactive activities, too. Looney notes that the family-friendly events were made possible through partnerships with the Home Depot, Top Golf and other local companies such as River Cats, which offered games for the younger set.

“We really partnered with a lot of businesses in our community to just help make it fun for these kids,” she says. “The goal was to have a lot of options for families with kids who might not want to jump on the rides, but still wanted to participate in the fair.”

Participation and enthusiasm for the fair were great this year, Looney reports.
“We really worked on our still exhibits, such as artwork, photography and things that community members, both adults and youth, could enter and we had a record breaking year there.”

As to the Johnson Hall exhibits and performances, the activities and booths were called Placer Place on family Sunday. “It was all Placer-county-centric, and the booths featured Placer-grown or made items. It was a new feature added to the fair this year, and we will add it again for 2020. It really helped us to bring the idea of the people themselves are what makes a county fair special. We really did highlight the community, we got good feedback, and people really enjoyed coming out of the heat and seeing the shows.” Looney adds “The community involvement was really up, and we had such a good vibe from everyone. We had over 400 youth photo entries alone. People were just enormously excited about being a part of the fair,” she says. “If you get them involved and invested, they'll want to come back year after year, and that's what we wanted to highlight.”

With that in mind, the outdoor family fun zone, also included with fair admission tickets,  offered plenty of activities for children, Looney asserts. “There was a watermelon eating contest, balloon tosses, it was just nice for the kids.”

Also new this year: All Alaskan Pig Racing, which was set up near the family fun zone with portable stadium seats that Looney says were always full with both kids and adults.

“It was just super fun to watch that, and we also did another fun event, the pedal tractor pulling for kids ages 4-12.”

But it wasn't all new activities at the fair. “Of course, we brought back all the kinds of things people love at the fair. We had local bands at the beer garden stage every evening, and the carnival rides, provided by WOLD Amusements were just great.” As always, the Ferris Wheel was very popular; adjoining the carnival area was another new feature: a silent disco. “That was also included in fair admission, and although we had aimed it at teens and 20s age groups, everyone loved it. It drew people to the rides, which were located a little way from the central part of the fairgrounds, and it provided an alternative if people were waiting for others to leave rides, or needed a break from riding.”

Additionally, the fair hosted their annual Miss Placer County competition, held indoors for the first time at Johnson Hall. “The competitors really liked being indoors because it can be hot at the end of June in Roseville,” Looney says.

Food offerings were equally exciting this year, Looney says. “We had Mandy Peters Catering Company in a little permanent structure on the grounds. They made wonderful fun foods like fried bologna, and BBQ brisket French fries with nacho cheese and chili. People loved that. Goldie's tacos had traditional handmade Indian tacos and fry bread that were fantastic.” She says that also popular were “delicious corn dogs, margaritas, and staying close to our Placer County roots, we brought in local wineries and breweries from our wine and ale trail on Friday and Saturday night. The double IPA from Moksa Brewing was a huge hit that everyone loved.”

Overall, Looney says “The fair this year was really the accumulation of everything we've been trying to do. We kept what was special about the Placer County Fair and then we tried to add a new spin to really make it a family-friendly event for our community.”

Tickets were $7 for ages 13 and up, $3 for seniors, $2 for kids ages 6-12, and free admission for those age-5 and younger. Carnival wrist bands were $25 at pre-sale, and $30 at the fair; an $80 Gold Band allowed unlimited rides for all four days of the fair. Carnival wristbands did not include fair admission.
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