Attendance at the Fair, which celebrated its 100th year in Pleasanton, totaled 534,577, up by 18% over a year ago and, in fact, set the largest recorded attendance in history. The previous attendance record was set last year at 452,747. In 2009, the Alameda County Fair was recognized as the fastest-growing fair in North America, where there are more than 3,000 similar fairs, It's currently ranked as the 39th largest fair in the country and today is the largest event in the East Bay.
Special promotions and marketing by April Mitchell, manager of event sales and marketing, and Fair planning and leadership by nationally known Fair CEO Rick Pickering made the 100-year-old 2012 County Fair a "happening" that appealed to thousands throughout Northern California. Special promotions helped drive attendance, including a $1 admission on opening day, $2 Tuesdays and free admission for those 62 and over on Thursdays. The Fair's "Feed the Need" food drive resulted in 39,189 pounds of donated food for the Alameda County Community Food Bank. Additionally, more than 1,200 volunteers helped package 130,000 meals for the nonprofit Kids Against Hunger, most of which will be stored onsite at the Fairgrounds for future emergency needs in Alameda County.
For several hours on most Fair days, cars were lined up on southbound I-680 between the I-580 interchange and the Bernal Avenue off-ramp and, at mid-day last Saturday and Sunday, well beyond. Even so, the abundance of rides offered by Butler Amusements, including the many games and food booths along the midway, kept the crowds moving smoothly through the ticket gates. A variety of attractions beyond the midway also appealed to thousands. Many stretched out on SleepTrain mattresses in the exhibit halls while others filled the chairs of vendors offering back, foot and neck massages. Open seats were seldom available at the various cooking demonstration stations. Other events, some unique to the Alameda County Fair, gave kids a chance to ride sheep bareback or zoom down the new waterslide. The Fair's new one-concert-a-night schedule with a large screen on the Fair's grass offering a simulcast brought more order to the amphitheater.
Of course, no one goes to a fair without tasting some of the "delicacies" that all fairs offer, and ours clearly were among the best. From the 123,596 corn dogs consumed during the Fair to the 4,598 deep-fried Oreos, this was not a feast to tell your doctor about. Sales of funnel cakes, an all-time favorite, totaled 37,918. But then where else can you find these treats until next June, when the Fair comes back to Pleasanton?