By Judy Carrico
Each year we get asked: “What’s new at the Fair?” To help answer that question – keep reading!
Annually, our staff does an extensive review following the fair. The staff reviews survey responses, customer comments we receive during the Fair, social media comments and general observations we make during the Fair. We ask: What worked, what needs improvement and what, if anything, are we eliminating?
We start this process in the late Summer, and then we are able to incorporate changes during our budget process. This year, we have made some significant infrastructure changes, programming additions, and we are always looking for ways to improve our guest’s experience.
The biggest change we made is the removal of a building that resulted in the relocation of our Youth Competitive Exhibits. The Building known as Building D showcased our school projects and other youth projects (those things like crafts, art, missions, etc). During the rest of the year it was used to store exhibit props and our event operations equipment like tables, chairs, etc. Removing this building allowed the addition of a new walkway and more grass. It has really opened up a very congested area by our Green Gate entrance. So you may ask – where did those exhibits go? Did the fair eliminate them? No, we just relocated them to Building R which is in the same area that we have our small animals, fine arts, hobby and collections, and agriculture exhibits.
You will also see some changes to our Kid’s Park. We have worked with our carnival operator, Butler Amusements to utilize more of the paved walkways and Palm Avenue (by the Yellow Gate). We’ve added a sidewalk, moved the Kid’s Park Stage towards the Yellow Gate, and opened up the entrance to our Sky Ride. If you are looking for the Pony Rides, they have been moved towards the Grandstands across from the Palm Pavilion with improved access from our paved areas.
Our next big change was to add in 3 new cultural events. After reviewing our survey results, we realized the demographics in our surrounding communities have really changed. The Tri-Valley has become significantly more diverse than 5 years ago. As a result, we have added Bollywood at the Fair, Out at the Fair, and Asian Pacific Celebration at the Fair. Again, based on data we have, we are excited to introduce a traditional County Fair, to these cultures. We have some amazing partners helping make sure we do it right!
For our Action Sports Arena Fans you will see many changes in this area as well. From programming to layout, that entire area has been redesigned. We added seating on the west side of the bleachers to take advantage of the tall trees that provide natural shade. We also opened the east side of the arena, moving those seats to the north and south ends. This will allow pedestrian traffic to move more easily from our Green Gate Entrance area towards our Ag Venture Park and Red Gate Area.
For our motorcycle sport fans mark your calendar: June 21 – 23 the first ever Alameda County Fair Arena Cross Nationals Competition will be held. Riders will compete for $4000 in cash awards each night. Make sure to get your reserved seats for this, and other events at the Action Sports Arena.
To make room for that new competition, we have moved our Extreme Rodeo to our opening weekend, which is Western Weekend. Starting off the weekend on Friday June 14 will be the Last Ride Cattle Drive, Team Penning and the Extreme Rodeo. Saturday June 15 will show fairgoers what ranch life is like when they watch the Rancher’s Rodeo which pits local ranchers competing for cash awards in competitions from loading a horse into a trailer to moving cattle from one area to another. That day is the final Extreme Rodeo where cowboys face off with bulls. And then on Sunday June 16, the first ever Drill Horse Exhibition will be held during the day, with the Fiesta Del Charro event in the evening.
We are bringing the Fireworks Spectacular Show back on June 28 in the Grandstand. The show will start around 9:45 pm, and will be launched from the infield of the racetrack. Fortunately, most of the fairgrounds offer ample locations to view the show: Grandstand, Ag Venture Park, Kid’s Park, Action Sports Arena Bleachers and the Main Carnival Lot. If you prefer to be closer to the action, you can purchase a reserved seat in the Grandstand for $25 which includes Fair Admission!
This year we are hosting the first ever eSports Competition during the Fair. The two events will be Esports Street Fighter on June 22 and Esports Smash Brothers on June 29. These competitions are open to the public, however you should register in advance if you are interested in competing. This competition will be located near the Red Gate Entrance in Country Plaza.
The Alameda County Fair is also known as Alameda County’s Largest Classroom. Our Fair was one of the first to highlight STEM, and now STEAM, activities. This year we are introducing Urban farming and Backyard farming techniques which include hydroponics and the use of solar power. Look for our display in AgVenture Park near the AgVenture Park Stage.
During the weekends, this area will also showcase engineering, electronics, robotics, LEGOs and more. Check out what we have planned here: https://annual.alamedacountyfair.com/steam/
We are always reviewing ways to improve the guest experience and this year we have increased seating in cool areas, added misting stations, increased our water bottle refill stations and moved our tasting events to our grandstand.
Our team identified areas of the grounds that could accommodate additional seating. These areas include the exhibit buildings which are air conditioned and outdoors under our magnificent trees. We will be adding benches and chairs so keep an eye out for them!
Since our Fair is held in June/July, we always anticipate a heat wave. Over the past few years we have added misting to our entrance arches and near our First Aid Station. This year, look for additional misting stations located throughout the grounds.
We had some very old water fountains on the grounds – so old we couldn’t find parts anymore! Our team did some research and found ways to turn the old water fountains into water bottle refill stations. This year we have added 2 additional water bottle refill stations throughout the grounds. There are a total of 5 now and they are located near the Gazebo Stage Area next to the Kettle Corn Stand, Building C, Restrooms by the Yellow Gate, one is inside Building O and one is at our Off Track Betting Facility near Gate 12.
We have moved our Beer Fest, Wine Fest, and Craft Cocktail Fest from the infield area of our racetrack to the grandstand. The three events will be located on the 1st and 2nd floors of the grandstand which is actually one of the cooler (temperature wise) areas of the fairgrounds. Participants will be closer to a wider variety of food, restrooms, and best of all – the horse races themselves! Nothing more exciting than being able to cheer on your favorite horse and jockey up close!
For those race fans who truly want the VIP experience, we have opened up our Sky Lounge to the public for the first time ever. Located on the fourth level of the grandstand, this room is fully air-conditioned, has a spectacular view of the entire racetrack, HDTV monitors, self service betting machines in addition to mutual staff to assist in making that winning bet. For $50 per person you’ll get a gate admission, hot buffet, no-host bar, racing program and a VIP seat all day. A great deal!
So there you have it, some, and not all, of the changes made for this year. While I may not have covered every little change, these are some of the bigger ones for 2019. Make sure to check out your favorite one! And let us know: thumbs up or thumbs down!