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Carnival & Fair News

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Santa Clara Fair Extends Length and Adds to the Big Fair Fun
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For the first time in 25 years, the Santa Clara fair ran a whopping ten days longer than usual. Gates were open the 26th of July through the 6th of August, but closed on the 31st and 1st.

 The San Jose, Calif. fair offers a wide range of fun foods and four stages filled with popular cover bands, taking on the hits of everyone from Elton John to Selena. The Rat Pack is Back, one band proclaimed as its name, while the band Yesterday channeled the Beatles, and Voyage offered the music of Journey, all on the main stage. Latin Rhythm sounds closed out the fair on the 6th. New tribute bands rocked out every night of the fair. 

Other entertainment included a K9 show, Bubble Fun and Bungee, a fair Heritage exhibit, and even a cooling area, made popular due to the California heat wave blanketing the region in early August. From Karaoke to displays by the Santa Clara sheriff's office, there were a wide variety of vendors and attractions.

This year also marked the first post-pandemic return of all exhibits and attractions, and it included a major art show featuring the work of more than 125 artists, live mural painting, and an art gallery exhibit. Dubbed Art Alley, the murals painted were vast and colorful. Fairgoers voted for their favorites; top voted artists received monetary prizes.

The fair also boasted craft opportunities, a robotics contest, an air guitar contest, a bubble gum blowing contest, and stick horse races as well as Reading Time for kids, and an opening day parade and ribbon cutting ceremony. 

The opening was worthy of celebration for the fair's full-capacity, full-event schedule opening that included the carnival rides, animals, and food that fairgoers love best. The fairgrounds had been taken over by Santa Clara County for COVID emergency response, causing the fair to run in recent years at a reduced size. It was not until March 2023, that the grounds were fully vacated and ready for fair planning.

Executive director Abe Andrade wanted this year's fair to be better than ever, and a full revival of its past triumphs. “We wanted to go big,” he attested, stating that the ten-day run time and size of exhibits and events were designed to prove that the show was “'fair strong' countywide.” He notes that the length of the fair's run is the longest it has been in over 19 years.

Fair admission was priced at $13-$15 depending on the day of the week; parking was also $15. Kids aged 5 and under received free admission. On August 2nd and 3rd, active and veteran military were admitted free with ID.

The Junior Livestock Auction, held Saturday the 5th, was a big high point for the fair, as were the animal exhibits throughout the fair's run, including cattle, sheep, swine, rabbits, goats, and more. Exotic animals including reptiles were also on hand as part of the Safari Encounter. Little fairgoers could enjoy both AG and educational interactive exhibits and activities at Little Hands on the Farm.

Fair entertainment beyond the cover bands included a comedy hypnosis show, and a Canine Show from America's Got Talent.

A wide range of exhibits were presented this year, ranging from flowers to Home Arts displays, gems and minerals, and the Cesar Chavez- Farmworkers Heroes Exhibit.

Interactive met educational with fun classes such as floral display, balloon displays, and Bottle & Bottega, all three of which were priced at $55. The latter offered “art parties” focused on the creation of landscapes.

Food vendors rejoiced at the lack of restrictions and extended timeframe for the fair. Vendors such as Angelo's Peppersteak, a long-time family operation were overjoyed at the crowds. A bright pink Barbie Freeze, available at Texas Snowball was a bit hit, as were Salvadoran food choices, Twisty K's swirly colored soft-serve ice cream, Fair Pretzels, Funnel cakes, Slush Puppies, giant turkey legs, and Strawberry Shortcake. BBQ nachos and fresh roasted corn were other favorites. Some food booths, such as Me So Corny, had large scale photo op cutouts featuring the food item served.

Carnival rides were provided by The Midway of Fun, with one of the most popular attractions being the giant Century Wheel, which offered a stellar view of the expansive fairgrounds. The Zipper and Ali Baba were also favorites. Family owned and California based, the carnival company offered the thrills of the Drop Zone and the Viper ride as well as kid-focused attractions such as the Wacky Worm and Dizzy Dragons among its offerings. Unlimited ride wristbands were available for $30 -$35. Small rides cost $4.00, family rides cost $5.00, and large rides cost $6.00.

Excite Credit Union stepped up to sponsor the fair this year. Future fairs might even go bigger, with a 14-acre parking lot on the fairgrounds planned for conversion to both a parking garage and a massive Cricket Stadium that could be used for fair events. A soccer complex is also under consideration. Both could revamp the fairgrounds for future large-scale events. 

Andrade said that as these projects move into focus, it could spur progress for other updates to the fairgrounds, including such additions as a 25-acre equestrian, livestock, and agricultural education center. Revenue received from events held on the property throughout the year could also assist the fairgrounds staff with necessary renovations to the expo halls.  

While fair attendance was definitively up this year, attendance numbers were not available at press time. Still, all in all, the fair lived up to its theme of “county strong” in 2023.
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