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Carnival & Fair News

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The Big Fresno Fair Was Large on Fun
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Running October 4 to October 15, the 2023 Big Fresno Fair provided 12 days packed with fun. According to fair public relations contact Danielle Griffin, this year's event was the first with the fair's interim CEO Christina Estrada.

Replete with free strolling acts and free entertainment on community stages, the event also exhibited 2,753 animals with 856 livestock up for auction, raising over $1.2 million in sales. Fairgoers also got to enjoy baby critters too, with 15 lambs and 6 calves born during the fair's run.

Fair admission was $12 for adults, $8 for kids 6-12 and seniors over age 62; military admission was also $8. Kids ages 5 and under were admitted free. Attendees looking to experience the fair for all 12 days could purchase a season pass for $48.

Horse races, which took place Mondays, Saturday, and Sunday were ticketed at $6, with Friday racing priced at $10, and first floor admission free with paid fair admission.

Butler Amusements provided the carnival attractions with both a separate Kiddie Land located inside the racetrack and a main carnival on the fairgrounds. Unlimited ride wristbands were $35 Monday -Thursday and $40 on Friday and Saturday. Individual ride tickets were $1.00. For the first time this year, Butler offered kiosks for purchasing reloadable wristbands. The kiosks accepted everything from cash, credit and debit to Apple and Google Pay.

Also available right at the fair were ride Fast Passes, saving attendees on ride lines for $15-$20, depending upon date.

Sean Butler Murphy, COO of Butler Amusements related that among the more popular rides were a mix of kid's attractions, family rides, and thrills. These included Dumbo Jumbo, Puppy Roll, the Grand Carousel, The Hawaiian Express, Turbo Speed, The Wave Swinger, and it's more thrilling cousin, Vertigo, and of course, the Century Wheel, Giant Wheel, and Eagle 16 Ferris Wheel. Fabbri Group's The Giant Pole Position Spinning Roller Coaster was also a strong draw as the first such spinning coaster in North America, with a top measurement of 55-feet in height and three levels. Butler has been the fair's ride purveyor since 1981.

Fair admission discounts included SCAN senior medical plans offering free and half-price admission for seniors at a specific day and times, a Sun Maid Raisins sponsored free Kid's Day admission for children under age 12, and a fair pass in exchange for a blood donation.

The Fair Education Program provided a free educational field trip to the event for all Fresno County Elementary students through 8th grade, bringing in 27,095 students.

And speaking of numbers, the fair was heavily promoted on social media outlets of all kinds from Facebook to Snapchat and amassed a whopping 27,802,169 total reach from the Fair's Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram during the fair's run.

Adding to the popularity of following the fair on social media, Tuesday, October 10 was $2 “Fans & Followers” Happy Hour Entry Day allowing followers to enter the fair inexpensively after connecting and showing the barcode posted on the fair's social pages at the gate between 4 and 7 p.m. that day.

Fair admission and carnival admission numbers are still pending for this year, however based on attendance numbers the last several years post-pandemic, fair gate admissions should top 500,000.

Event highlights this year included a new Flippenout! Extreme Trampoline Show featuring a pro team performing signature off the wall acrobatics, as well as Olympic-style routines, and big stunts. The Livin' Local Marketplace was also a hit as it marked its third year with 39 local small business vendors and a top record of $168,000 in sales. Both kids and adults also flocked to the Wild Science interactive exhibition, which was new this year.

There were ample competitive entries in Fine Arts & Photography and Home Arts, including a pie contest and foods around the world contest which received the highest entry numbers.

Moving over to the Agriculture Building, there was a majorly chunky pumpkin on display, topping 50 pounds. In Floriculture, plants from succulents to orchids and cactus were entered for competition.

And what about fair food? Chicken Charlie's sold massive amounts – some 10,000 Oreo cookies which were deep fried, as well as copious amounts of deep-fried frog legs, S'mores, and chicken drumsticks. They also did great business with new-this-year Flaming Hot Cheetos pot stickers. Leftover product was donated to the community's Poverello House for a 6th charitable year.

Also popular were the Fruit Caboose for its ice cream cones, Fabulous Fanny's Funnel Cakes with its fresh strawberry toppings, and County Fair Cinnamon Rolls which marked its 45th year in business. Gourmet caramel apples, Dole Whip desserts, garlic fries, peach champagne gelato, ribs, and snow cones were all big hits with fairgoers.

There were many new treats to try that were popular too, including the Original Fry Burger with fries from Fry Burger, Rocky Road Funnel Cake from Fabulous Fanny's, Dipped Bananas and Cheesecake from FairTime Fudge, Honey Sriracha Popcorn Shrimp from Sharky's Fish Fry, and Chamoy Pickles from Timbo's. There were also new Boba beverages and cheesy jalapeno bread as well as fried S'mores on a stick.

For attendees on a budget, the fair offered many bargain meals for under $10, including nachos, two churros, two soft tacos, and regular-sized corn dogs.
Music was present in abundance, with the return of the Quebradita Fest on Sunday, October 8th as a part of the Table Mountain Concert series. At the fest, bandas performed including Mi Banda El Mexicano de Casimiro, Banda Machos, Banda Maguey and Banda Vallarta Show. Ticket prices were $95, $75, $55, and $35.

Other concerts in the series included national acts such as En Vogue with Expose, Elle King, Danny Gokey & Ryan Stevenson, The Beach Boys, War with Canned Heat, Midland, and punk act The Offspring.

Concert ticketing pricing began at $15 for lowest priced seating for the War with Canned Heat event, with a full range of pricing upward.

USA Boxing Championships took place at the O'Reilly Auto Parts Pavilion Stage on Sunday, October 8, and included ten bouts plus a special guest appearance and meet & greet with WBC & WBO Champion, Jose Ramirez. Admission was free.

Other well-attended fair offerings included the Craft Brew Court, providing many local brews; the interactive Pacifico Yosemite station; Table Mountain Rancheria Park; performances at the Mexican heritage patio; and of course performances by the ever popular All Alaskan racing pigs. Fairgoers could also enjoy camel rides, strolling clowns unicyclists, and exotic birds.

Unique to the fair were the Iron Mountain Trash to Treasure reclaimed art exhibition, as well as the 11th Annual Big Band Review in which 25 Junior High and High School Marching Bands from throughout California competed for prizes in a free event. The Kings River Conservancy, located in the Greenhouse and Gem & Mineral Building on the fairgrounds, provided fascinating information on the Kings River, and a fun photo op in a kayak.

Now in its 10th year, The Big Fresno Fair Museum showcased the fair's history since its founding in 1884.  Among the items on display were the first-known film of the fair, created by Claude “Pop” Laval in 1930, as well as the first cotton candy machine ever made, which dated to 1921.

More modern was the Pop! Culture Experience, which offered a Comic-Con type of exhibition including vendors, live Cosplay characters, and retro and new video gaming, including Mario Kart LIVE and eSports competitions.

The Big Fresno Fair provided big fun to fairgoers in a variety of ways.
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