Thursday, April 4, 2013, started out like a normal day for me. I woke up early, fed the cats and made coffee for Barbara and me. Later, after doing my chores, I drove to La Bou on Howe Ave. to meet my aunts, Kay and Alice, for coffee and a croissant. My brother John was there too on that day. After one hour and one half of chit chatting, we headed off in different directions.
Then, when I arrived home, I received a cryptic text from my brother, which brought darkness to an otherwise sun shiny day: “Denis Tomassetti killed last night in auto accident.” I texted John back immediately saying, “no way”, but sadly it was true. Minutes later, I contacted our mutual friend Tom Hart to confirm John’s text. In a broken voice, Tom said, “yes, it is true; Denis was killed last night on the way home from work.”
This shows how fleeting life can be. Here one minute, gone the next.
I have known Denis Tomassetti pretty much all my life. He entered the world in the year I moved to Janey Way, 1952. He was part of a bunch of kids we called the younger Janey Way boys: Denis, the three Johns (Tomassetti, Relles and Ducray) Rick Thomsen and Tom Hart. I remember watching them play Senior Little League baseball games on the field behind our house where St. Francis High School now stands. I watched and thought, “these little guys have sure grown up, and they are good.”
Years later, after we all came back from serving in the military, I attended some rock concerts (the thing he really loved to do) with Denis. I recall seeing the Kinks at Sacramento State College and Bob Dylan at Cal Expo. We always had a great time. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of contemporary music as well as an incredible sense of humor. Going places with Denis, was always fun.
We played golf together too: Denis, Tom Hart, my dad and I. Dad took golf seriously and was known to hurl a club after a bad shot, but not with Denis in the foursome. Denis would have needled him too much for that. Again, we always had a lot of fun.
More recently (over the last decade) Denis enlisted me to play with him and Tom Hart in an annual POW (prisoners of wives) golf tournament. He and Tom usually picked me up at my home on Friday afternoon, and then we drove up the hill to Lake Tahoe. It made for a great weekend: golf, gambling, a few beers and good friends. Who could ask for more?
Denis won’t be playing with us this year in the POW Tournament. All of his POW friends will miss him dearly. Now, the great fun I had over the years with my dear friend Denis is just another heart-felt Janey Way Memory.
Thursday, April 4, 2013, started out like a normal day for me. I woke up early, fed the cats and made coffee for Barbara and me. Later, after doing my chores, I drove to La Bou on Howe Ave. to meet my aunts, Kay and Alice, for coffee and a croissant. My brother John was there too on that day. After one hour and one half of chit chatting, we headed off in different directions.
The Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation is not only known for its historic East Sacramento church complex west of McKinley Park, but also for its annual Greek Festival.
And playing an important role in the founding of this event was Eugene Fotos, who was raised in East Sacramento.
Today, the event is recognized as one of the state’s most popular Greek festivals. But the event, which was first held on Nov. 15, 1964, had a much more humble beginning.
Cosmas Alliapoulos, who was serving as president of the Greek Community of Sacramento and Vicinity (which was incorporated on Jan. 30, 1920), attended one of the earliest editions of the Greek Festival presented by St. Basil Greek Orthodox Christian Church in Stockton.
The event was first held at the Stockton Civic Auditorium in 1960.
Inspired by St. Basil’s Greek Festival, Alliapoulos asked Fotos, who was already a longtime Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation member, to chair a local food faire.
Fotos accepted the role of the event’s chair and began working with Lillian Psihopaidas, who served as the faire’s co-chair.
This faire, which is recognized as the first Sacramento Greek Festival, was the most modest edition of this now longtime, annual event.
This inaugural event, which was attended by 718 people at the Hellenic Center on Alhambra Boulevard and included a band, dancing and a pastry booth with few sales, netted $2,556.
Fotos said that a large part of this pastry booth’s inability to be successful was due to the fact that people were dancing around the booth.
“Because the people were dancing around the booth, (the booth’s manager) Mrs. (Vasiliki) Manolis, couldn’t sell the pastries,” Fotos recalled. “She had 8-foot tables (to display the pastries). The band started playing and pretty soon people started dancing around the tables and the poor thing, (Manolis), said, ‘I can’t sell. I can’t sell.’”
Eppie at the festival
In 1966, the festival was relocated to the Scottish Rite Temple at 6151 H St.
Among those in attendance at the 1966 festival, which raised $4,200, were Fotos, Bill Demas, Perry Georgallis and Eppie Johnson.
Johnson, who had opened Eppie’s Restaurant and Coffee Shop at 3001 N Street in East Sacramento about two years earlier, drew much attention at the event, as he wore a traditional Greek fustanella – an article of clothing similar to a Scottish kilt.
In remembering Eppie’s appearance at the 1966 festival, Fotos said, “I was shocked after I saw that. I couldn’t believe it. Usually (these fustanellas) are white and blue. But what did Eppie have? He had green or some strange color. And he picked (the color).”
During the latter part of the 1960s and 70s, the site for this event changed several times.
These sites were the Governor’s Hall on the old State Fairgrounds at Stockton Boulevard and Broadway, the Country Club Plaza mall parking lot, Jesuit High School and the grounds of the Greek Orthodox Church, next to the Hellenic Center.
Fotos said that the festival at Jesuit High proved to be a very lengthy affair.
“In those days, we just had a two-day festival – Saturday and Sunday,” Fotos said. “We had to pick up everything, because the school was going to be in session the next day. And we worked, we worked, we worked. There weren’t a lot of us working and we drug everything over to the trucks and loaded them on and we got to the church (in East Sacramento) at 7 (o’clock) in the morning. We worked all night long.”
Cal Expo and beyond
During the early 1980s, the festival was held for a couple of years at Cal Expo.
Fotos vividly recalled the 1981 festival, which proved to be a fairly infamous event.
“Just two days before our festival, an indoor rodeo had been held in the same building we were to use (at Cal Expo),” Fotos said. “The remaining multitude of horseflies and the lingering aromatic scent of horses were almost too much to bear.”
The festival was relocated to its present site at the Sacramento Convention Center in 1984, and four years later, the event’s earnings surpassed the $100,000 mark for the first time, as the festival raised $108,657.
The festival’s Greek cuisine and desserts collectively serve as a popular draw of the event.
These edibles include dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), souvlaki (meat kabobs), gyros (Greek sandwiches on pita bread), tiropites (cheese puff filo dough triangles), homemade salads, baklava (a rich, flaky filo dough pastry filled with walnuts, butter and cinnamon and soaked in honey) and loukoumathes (honey-dipped donut holes).
Food items such as imported Greek olives, cheeses, crackers, coffees, cookies and candies can also be purchased at the event’s pantopoleon, or Greek grocery store.
Another festival attraction is the agora, or Greek, marketplace, where guests can purchase items such as jewelry, artwork and recorded music.
Also attracting much attention at the festival are Greek dancing groups, who wear festive Greek clothing and perform traditional Greek dances.
As a family-oriented event, the festival also offers various children’s activities.
Fotos, who will turn 80 next month, said that he is proud of the festival’s longtime existence and popularity.
“We are very proud to be of Greek descent and to share our heritage and traditions with Sacramento area people and others,” said Fotos, whose nephew, Father James Retelas, serves as the priest of the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation.
The California State Fair has a long history, which has created fond memories for many Sacramento residents, others throughout the state and beyond.
And this year’s fair, which opens today and continues through July 29, is loaded with many attractions that will deliver a variety of new memories.
In taking a ride down memory lane, one can observe the fair’s long tradition of fun-filled attractions.
1862 State Fair
One hundred and fifty years ago, the fair was only in its eighth year, and only a year had passed since the state legislature designated Sacramento as the fair’s permanent location.
This was the 1862 fair, which followed the city’s great flood of 1861-62.
Persevering through this tragedy, which caused Venice-like waterway scenes through its streets, Sacramento was able to present a very successful fair.
The Sacramento Union noted in its Oct. 4, 1862 edition that the number of people who arrived at the 1862 fair exceeded expectations.
This article stated: “The ground at the park yesterday was fairly covered with people and carriages. At no time last year were there as many persons present as were there about two o’clock yesterday. The wonder was where the thousands present could have come from. It was a proud day for the State Fair, as well as for Sacramento, as a great many had predicted that the attempt to hold a fair this year would prove a mortifying failure.”
During this Civil War-era fair, which was held from Sept. 30 to Oct. 3, 1862, the public viewed displays showcasing the state’s fine selection of fruits.
This exhibit, which was presented at the Pavilion at 6th and M streets (now Capitol Mall), was even more impressive, when considering the time of year that the fair was being held. Wool and woolen goods were also on display at the Pavilion. And at the park, the public also viewed exhibitions of horses, cattle, sheep and hogs and a machine for grinding sugar cane, and its accompanying evaporator.
The receipts for the 1862 fair, which included a closing evening ball at the Pavilion, totaled more than $11,000.
1887 State Fair
Nearly 125 years have passed since the Sept. 12 opening of the two-week-long 1887 fair. It was in that year that the State Fair suddenly had competition, as the local Mechanics’ Institute opted to hold its annual exhibition from Sept. 1 through Oct. 8.
However, this conflict in scheduling did not impede the 1887 State Fair from achieving success.
In less than one week after the opening of the fair, The Union, in its Sept. 17, 1887 edition, declared the event a “complete success.”
In its Sept. 16, 1887 edition, The Sacramento Bee reported that “strangers continue to pour into Sacramento on every train to attend the State Fair” and “every wagon road is lined with vehicles.”
Among the greatest attractions at the 1887 fair were the horse races, which were reported upon in detail in the local, daily newspapers of the time.
Receiving much attention in the aforementioned edition of the Bee was a horse named Black Diamond.
In one report on Black Diamond’s success, the Bee noted, “Those who had (bet on Black Diamond) from the start, and at big odds, were wild with delight.”
1912 State Fair
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the 1912 State Fair, which was only the third consecutive time the fair was held at the Stockton Boulevard fairgrounds.
As in previous years, the 1912 fair drew many spectators to its livestock shows. The Sept. 14, 1912 edition of the Bee featured details about the fair’s notable cattle, including Aralia De Ko, the then-world champion for butter fat.
In a single year, this Holstein produced 910 pounds of butter fat, 28,000 pounds of milk and 1,137 pounds of butter.
Held from Sept. 12-21, the 59th annual fair opened with a downtown parade with cowboys and charioteers.
Other attractions included the first California State Fair Round-Up, which became an annual event, fireworks at the grandstand, and Odell, “The Bee Wizard,” who enclosed himself in a cage and allowed bees to swarm all over his body, without suffering a single sting.
1937 State Fair
The popularity of the fair continued to increase throughout the years, leading to the event’s distinction as the largest fair in the United States in 1938, when more than 600,000 people attended the fair.
This high attendance mark was made possible through the assistance of the fairgrounds’ 1937 expansion from 80 acres to 155 acres. The expansion included a new racetrack grandstand and horse show arena.
The 1937 fair opened for the first day of its 10-day run on Friday morning, Sept. 3. The day represents the first time that the California State Fair began on a Friday.
The start of the fair was marked by thousands of school children who walked in a parade from McClatchy Park to the fairgrounds.
Popular attractions at the 1937 fair were horse shows, a $1.5 million display of livestock, Foley & Burke carnival shows with various rides and machines, the Lottie Mayer disappearing water ballet, a pig-feeding contest, free motion pictures showings, concerts, a nightly fireworks show and the introduction of a new lily pond in front of the main fair building.
1987 State Fair
It can be difficult for many people to come to terms with the fact that the 1987 State Fair opened 25 years ago this year.
Held Aug. 21 through Labor Day, Sept. 7, this fair opened with a ceremony in front of the main gate at Cal Expo.
The ceremony included performances by the 561st National Guard band and the California Raisin Advisory Board’s Dancing Raisins, a tree planting by the Sacramento Tree Foundation and an entrance by the Para-Stars, a Sacramento skydiving team.
Other attractions of the 1987 fair were midway rides, harness racing, professional rodeos, pig races, live music, “Monster Truck Madness,” Aztec Indian dancing, agricultural and crafts exhibits, an exotic birds display, fireworks at the grandstand and an evolution of communications display.
Special days of the 1987 fair included Raisin Day, Tomato Day, Cheese Day and Dairy Goat Industry Day.
2012 State Fair
Despite the many fond memories that have been established at previous state fairs, there is one special reason why this year’s fair can be considered the most important. And that reason is an obvious one, as the 2012 fair is the only one that is not a thing of the past.
Guests of this year’s fair, which has the theme, “Fun that Moves You,” will be presented with plenty of reasons to attend.
In addition to typical attractions such as midway rides, livestock shows, agricultural exhibits, live music, corn dogs, turkey legs and unusual food, this year’s fair will host a variety of new attractions.
These attractions include: Guinness World Record attempts such as a Roseville woman’s attempt to ride a Ferris wheel for more than 25 hours; a bull riders-only rodeo; Wizard’s Challenge: A 9,600-square-foot, mostly interactive, Medieval-themed exhibit; and Girl Scouts Zone: An interactive exhibit celebrating 100 years of the Girl Scouts.
Admission to this year’s fair is $12/general, $10/seniors, ages 62 and older, $8/children, ages 5 to 12 and free/children 4 and younger. Parking is $10.
The fairgrounds will be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Mondays through Thursdays and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays through Sundays.
For additional information about this year’s fair, visit www.bigfun.org.
Among the most notable memorials in the capital city is the September 11th Memorial Plaza, which was dedicated at Cal Expo on Aug. 15, 2003. And in memory of the 10th anniversary of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, the public was invited to visit the plaza, as the fairgrounds’ main gates were open throughout the day on Sunday, Sept. 11.
This permanent memorial was the dream of the late California State Fair Board of Directors member Larry Davis, who spent the last three years of his life working on the memorial project.
In one of his written memories about these efforts, Larry expressed that it was important to him to make sure that the events of Sept. 11 would continue to be remembered.
“On Sept. 11, 2001, I, like everyone else was terribly shocked to see on television what two airplanes had just done to our beautiful buildings in New York City,” Larry wrote. “The other two events of the same day, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania, left us all with a feeling of who in the world could dislike us so much to do something like this.
“As time went on, it was easy to notice that grand feeling of patriotism arise throughout our country. It reminded me of the feelings that existed when I was a boy delivering newspapers in San Francisco during the Second World War.
“With that feeling of patriotism, I was filled with a desire to build a memorial, so people would never forget those people who worked very hard saving all the lives they could, and of course, to pay respect to all those who perished.”
The plaza was two-thirds completed when Larry passed away on April 7, 2006, following his two-year battle with cancer.
Among the features of the memorial that were set in place before this time were the plaza’s 125,000-pound steel I-beam wreckage from the World Trade Center and the 5,180-pound, German-made, granite sphere, which floats and spins in any direction on a thin layer of water. The sphere is inscribed with the names of the 3,071 known victims of Sept. 11.
The I-beam, which had been used as a horizontal support on the second sub-street level floor of the north tower, was delivered to California by train along with four small pieces of steel.
The large piece of steel was so heavy that it was welded to the train due to the possibility that it could tip over the train, if it shifted.
After the I-beam was placed at Cal Expo, it did not take long for the beam to receive much attention, as more than 1 million guests viewed the beam during the 2002 State Fair.
Jo Ann Davis, Larry widow, said that although a small piece of steel from one of the towers was presented to then-Gov. Gray Davis, she is unaware what happened to the piece of steel.
“Years ago, when we brought the steel out, Larry gave a piece of steel to Gray Davis, who was the governor at that time,” Jo Ann said. “It was supposed to go in the rose garden (at Capitol Park) and for some reason, it has disappeared and nobody knows about it. That would be interesting to find out what happened to that piece of steel that Larry gave to Gray Davis.”
Other features of the plaza include:
The Reflection Towers: These towers were constructed and donated by the Herrick Steel Co. of Stockton.
Representing the World Trade Center towers, the memorial’s thick, green reflective glass-covered towers symbolize a “reflection of a better time.”
The Carillon Bell Tower: Standing 50 feet tall, this bell tower, which was built by the Verdin Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, includes 23 “singing bells.”
Each bell of the tower, which is the twin sister of the bell tower of Gettysburg College in Gettsburg, Pa., was cast in Holland and is inscribed with the words, “Let Freedom Ring.”
The more recent additions to the plaza include memorials to Flight 93 and Washington, D.C. and the Pentagon, flags of the United States and its military branches, a marble plaque with donors names and three Sept. 11 story boards.
Jo Ann, who resides in Rancho Mirage and Sonoma and spent 19 consecutive years working in the carnival business at the State Fair with Larry, said that a future plan for the memorial is to add a permanent Sept. 11 photograph display.
“There are a lot of children who were too small (to remember Sept. 11, 2001) and the parents come out there and they go through those pictures from when it happened all the way to the end and try to explain to the kids what happened to us,” said Jo Ann, who has been a resident of California since she was 10 years old. “That’s really important, but we need a place where (the photographs) can be displayed all the time, instead of just putting up a tent and putting the pictures out there. It’s working right now, except that we really need to do something more permanent.”
Jo Ann explained that the establishment of a Sept. 11 memorial at Cal Expo has been very special for many visitors of the fairgrounds, including those who have a direct connection to the events of Sept. 11.
“I’ve seen a man who comes (to the memorial plaza) every year and a couple of his family’s (names) are out there,” Jo Ann said. “It’s kind of like a memorial for him, as he comes and sees their names on the ball. And I’ve seen people crying out there. It’s unbelievable.”
Jo Ann, who has two children, five grandchildren and will soon have a fourth great-grandchild, said that she is pleased by the progress of the plaza and added that Larry would be proud of its current status.
“Larry always had big ideas,” Jo Ann said. “He was a wonderful man. I think (Larry’s) idea (for the plaza) would have been a lot more flamboyant than mine was, because he had such big ideas. But I think he would have been very proud of what I did. We had to get the money and we had to get the design work done and get someone to do it. It was a lot of work. I think that he was looking down and that he was proud.”
Various locally renowned people have established their homes in the Riverside-Pocket area at different times during the history of this historical community. And among these notable residents was former Mayor Clarence L. Azevedo.
Clarence, who was born in Mountain View, Calif. on Oct. 21, 1909, was the son of John Lawrence Azevedo and Rosa Agnes Silva Balcao Azevedo.
John Lawrence immigrated to Sacramento from the Azores Islands with his brother Frank in the early 1890s.
In 1893, the two brothers constructed a house on the old Jackson Road, five miles east of Sacramento in the town of Perkins, and a few years later, they engaged in winemaking.
Frank later established a farm in Natomas and John Lawrence farmed in Mountain View.
In addition to farming, John Lawrence was able to occasionally provide Portuguese interpreting for the courts through his knowledge of Portuguese and Latin, which he acquired while studying for the priesthood in the Azores Islands.
While residing in Mountain View, John Lawrence met and married Rosa Agnes and together they had three children, who were born in Mountain View.
The Azevedo family eventually sold their Mountain View ranch and purchased a summer resort in Calistoga, Calif.
It was there that the family moved into a 14-room house, rented out cabins to tourists and made wine for the government.
With the establishment of Prohibition, the Azevedos lost the majority of their income and moved back to the Sacramento area, where the couple had their fourth child and John Lawrence went to work for his brother in Natomas.
John Lawrence later worked at Manlove Station, east of Perkins, where he managed the McGillivray Ranch.
On Jan. 10, 1920, John Lawrence became a victim of influenza and, as a result, died at the age of 58 on June 6 of the same year. And Rosa Agnes died nearly 17 years later at the age of 52.
Following his father’s death, when he was 10 years old, Clarence, who was the oldest of his siblings, worked at a grocery store in Brighton, near Perkins.
At the store, he worked after school for 10 cents per hour from 4 to 7 p.m., then he returned to his home in Brighton to milk his family’s cow and sell quarts of milk by horseback.
After his long day of school and work, Clarence would spend time on his homework by the light of a kerosene lantern.
When Clarence was 14 years old, he spent an entire month operating the aforementioned grocery store, as well as its associated gas station while the business’s owner was on vacation.
And while he was still working at the grocery store in 1923, Clarence, who was then attending Sacramento High School, purchased a used Ford touring car for $180.
Clarence turned his vehicle into a means of making money, as his car became a sort of school bus for out of town students.
In being well aware that the county assisted out of town students by paying them $5 per month to attend high school, Clarence filled his car each day with six other out of town students and then collected his passengers’ $5 per month payments.
During the summers, Clarence earned 25 cents per hour performing cultivating and irrigation work at the nearby Rooney hop fields.
When he was 18 years old, Clarence applied to work at a Safeway grocery store one afternoon.
Because his desire to work and earn money was so strong, Clarence claimed that he was 21 years old on his application.
Furthermore, he showed up the following morning, without waiting for someone from the store to call him, just in case a store employee had quit their position and created a job opening.
Clarence’s persistency paid off, as he was hired to work at the Safeway store at 2430 J St. His first job at the store was peeling onions.
With his work ethic and drive, Clarence, who eventually worked for Safeway for 16 years, graduated to the order department following an incident in which he took a $132 grocery order from a Sloughhouse farmer.
At a pay rate of $22.50 per week, Clarence worked from 7 a.m. until whatever hour his work was completed each night.
Being that he lived in a city that was fanatical about baseball, it should come as no surprise that Clarence showed a great interest in baseball.
In addition to his dedication to Safeway, Clarence, beginning when he was 15 years old, played 15 years of semi-pro baseball as a catcher for teams in Perkins and Florin.
Although Clarence participated in this popular sport with such notable players as Joe Marty and Stan Hack, Clarence admitted that he was “not in their league.”
While he was still 18, Clarence married 16-year-old Alice Banks and the couple had one child, Phyllis Jean.
During the early part of his marriage, Clarence was living with his family in Stockton, where he worked at a Safeway for 10 months.
After transferring back to Sacramento, Clarence successfully managed various Safeway stores.
In about 1940, Clarence, who was then residing at 831 El Dorado Way in East Sacramento, became the manager of a new Safeway store at 2900 Freeport Blvd.
The only other person working at the store at the time was a butcher, named George Zarzana, who resided with his wife, Mary, at 1906 P St.
Within its first sixth months, the store grew from a first week’s total of $315 to the highest volume Safeway store in Northern California, and employed seven clerks.
Azevedo also set up a training course for new employees, and he earned $5 for each employee hired and trained.
Safeway’s upper management was so pleased with the quality and effectiveness of Clarence’s work that he was presented with the opportunity to become the supervisor of 27 Siskiyou County-based stores.
Apparently Clarence did not accept the job, since Alice was well established in the capital city with her own business, the California Apparel dress shop at 2925 35th St. in Oak Park. She had opened the store on Aug. 17, 1935 with $750 of Clarence’s Safeway bonus money.
Clarence left Safeway on July 10, 1943 to assist Alice with California Apparel, which at various times had stores in other locations in the Sacramento area, Roseville and Stockton.
Recurrent vandalism forced the Azevedos to close the last of their Oak Park stores – there were three such stores at different times – at 2930 35th St. in 1952.
In the same year, the Azevedos sold the remainder of their stores and began to operate a very large California Apparel store in the Fruitridge Shopping Center. This store, which was entirely managed by Clarence and earned $2.7 million in its last full year, continued to operate until April 28, 1986.
During the time that he was managing the Fruitridge store, Clarence became involved in politics and was appointed to the city council in 1953 to complete the term of Roy Nielson, who had been elected to the state assembly.
In 1956, Clarence began serving in the first of his two terms as mayor, a position he held until 1959.
It was also during this era that Clarence was a member of the executive committee of Solons, Inc. – the organization which purchased the Sacramento Solons minor league baseball team in 1959 – and the head of a committee designed to study the feasibility of financing the fairgrounds at Cal Expo.
In his latter years of his life, Clarence, who passed away at the age of 91 on Feb. 14, 2001, two years following the death of Alice, resided on 43rd Avenue, just off of South Land Park Drive, in the Riverside-Pocket area.
As the five-day fair, which begins today, May 26, neared its 2011 opening, T.J. Plew, the fair’s CEO and manager, sat down with the Arden-Carmichael News to explain why this year is a very unique and important year for the fair when it comes to its finances.
“This is a crucial year for the fair, as we anticipate planning our fair without state funding,” Plew said. “The eradication of fair funding will eliminate up to 50 percent of the Sacramento County Fair’s operating expenditures. This will affect our ability to produce the fair that the community expects and to provide the free school programming we know is needed. Having a good fair this year will provide the needed momentum to overcome the financial challenges in the coming months.”
With his hope that more people take advantage of the fair this year, Jim Vietheer, chair of the fair’s board, emphasized the entertainment value that the fair provides for local families.
“(The county fair) is a very much family-oriented event,” Vietheer said. “If the public is looking for a place to take their family that is reasonably inexpensive without having to drive a long way, which is certainly another expense, (the fair) is a great destination for the Memorial Day weekend.”
Continuing a tradition
For three quarters of its 75 years, the fair has been hosted in the capital city, as the event was relocated from its original venue in Galt in 1954.
After 17 years of being held at the present site of the Galt Flea Market and Park, the county fair began its lengthy history of utilizing the same grounds as the California State Fair.
Many longtime, local residents recall when both the county and state fairs were held at the old fairgrounds at Stockton Boulevard and Broadway.
Although the fair maintained its tradition of mostly featuring livestock and indoor displays by junior exhibitors, its venue changed with the opening of the city’s new fairgrounds – Cal Expo.
In its attempt to both present more attractions for its guests and separate itself from its longtime reliance upon funds from the State Fair Horse Show, the county fair underwent a variety of major changes in 1988. These changes included the additions of carnival rides, food vendors, entertainment and expanded programs.
Another change to the county fair occurred in 1991, when the state fair reassumed the responsibility of producing the State Fair Horse Show.
Additions to the format of the fair led to increases in attendance at the annual event. The fair made its largest attendance increase from 1996 to 2000, when attendance soared from about 14,000 to 63,877.
The fair experienced a major drop-off in attendance in 2005, as 47,342 people attended the fair, compared to 65,113 the previous year.
This low attendance mark and accompanying revenue losses, which were largely due to poor weather that deterred many people from attending the event, led to the fair’s restructuring from a Mother’s Day-time event to a generally improved weather Memorial Day-time event.
Since 2006, the county fair has been held during the same time as the popular Sacramento Jazz Festival and Jubilee.
When asked whether the fair directly competes with the jazz jubilee, which is in its 38th year, Plew said that, in general, she does not believe the two events cater to the same crowd.
“With 1.5 million people in the greater Sacramento area, there are plenty of potential guests for each event,” Plew said. “We don’t cater to the hardcore jazz enthusiasts. Our entertainment is more varied from hypnotists, jugglers and pony rides to country bands, dance groups and comedians.”
In 2006, after changing to its Memorial Day weekend schedule, 75,049 people attended the event, and since this time, an average of 69,000 guests has attended the fair each year.
The fair continues its efforts to increase its attendance on an annual basis through its free school programs that provide educational materials and opportunities to attend the fair for free, and unique, entertainment for families.
As usual, the fair will offer livestock auctions, a petting zoo, carnival rides and fair food, ranging from corn dogs and barbecued turkey legs to bacon maple sundaes and Hawaiian-style pulled pork, known as Kalua pork.
New additions to this year’s fair include sea lion encounters, circus-style shows, an Enchanted Forest, an agriculture magic show and a special
With the Sacramento County Fair’s dedication to the education of the community and its youth in agriculture, its efforts to make itself more financially viable and a quality turnout during this Memorial Day weekend, it should fare well in building upon its history as one of the city’s oldest, continuously-operating events.
The fair will be open today and Friday from noon to 10 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and on Monday, Memorial Day, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Admission is $5/ages 13 to 61 and free/children, 12 years old and younger and seniors, 62 years old and older.
Automotive parking is $10 and limited bicycle parking is available near the Rodeo Gate Entrance free of charge.
For additional information regarding this year’s county fair, call (916) 263-2975 or visit the Web site www.sacfair.com.
Back when I grew up, the Cal Expo only existed as a blue print on somebody’s drawing board. Instead, we had the California State Fairgrounds. It stood proudly at the intersection of Stockton Boulevard and Broadway in south Sacramento.
The stately brick building called the Governor’s Hall covered that corner and marked the entrance to the fair. Old Merlino’s Orange Freeze was right across the street from that entrance to the fair.
The old fairgrounds stretched for almost a mile north and east from that intersection. The western border of the fairgrounds stretched north from Broadway all the way up to X Street where it went east up to 48th Street then snaked in a southerly direction back towards Broadway. Unlike the modern Cal Expo, which seems a little cramped to me. The old State Fair spread out across a vast expanse of land.
We attended the old State Fair annually, usually on Kid’s Day (the first day of the fair) when kids got in for free. We always entered the fair at the north gate on approximately 48th Street. From there, we walked south down a broad avenue past a line of stately buildings.
First came the Hall of Flowers. We loved entering that building, not only because of the beautiful flowers on display, but because they kept it very cool to preserve the fresh cut flowers. A watery mist always seemed to fill the air in that building.
Next came the Counties Building, another beautiful brick edifice which featured exhibits from every one of California’s 58 counties. The theme of each county exhibit reflected the agriculture and industry which characterized that county. Placer County always featured a 49er panning for gold. Yolo County had rice and tomatoes. Los Angeles County showcased – what else – movies. The exhibits changed yearly and always fascinated us.
Next in the line of buildings came the Hall of Industry with vendors hawking their various wares including: blenders, choppers, window cleaners, etc. We loved that building because the vendors always offered samples to all, even the kids who never bought anything.
From there, the street through the fair turned east, headed for the carnival, our favorite stop, but not before passing the race track on the north, and livestock barns on the south.
Strangely enough, we loved walking through the livestock barns. The cows, sheep and pigs always fascinated us: a bunch of city boys who only saw animals at the zoo. Here we could literally reach in and pet the critters. Somehow that made them seem a lot more real than at the zoo.
Finally, came the carnival where we spent our hard-earned dimes and quarters on rides like the Ferris Wheel, the Hammer and the Tilt-a-Whirl. We played games like the Derby which emulated a real horse race. We drank soda pop, ate corn dogs and saw mysterious things like the two-headed boy and the bearded lady.
At night, they held outdoor dances adjacent to the carnival for the teen aged kids like we were at the time. In the early ’60s, the bands at the fair played surf music. Remember Wipeout? How about Dickey Dale and Deltones? A friend of ours, Danny Blakolb, actually played with a surf band at the fair. We danced, sang along and generally had a blast.
Days at the old State Fair always ended with fireworks at 9 p.m. They shot them off above a lake in the center of the old race track. Seeing the beautiful, if short, display always capped a great day of fun and adventure. It wasn’t Disneyland, but it was one heck of a lot of fun.
Our days of fun at the old State Fair are nothing but a long past memory to me now. I rarely attend Cal Expo. Somehow, its concrete structures don’t measure up to the brick buildings and tree-lined streets of the old fair – yet another cherished Janey Way Memory.
Editor’s Note: This is part two of a two-part series regarding the historic, 44,374-acre Rancho del Paso Mexican land grant, which included the future site of Arden and part of what would become Carmichael.
In part one of this two-part series, which appeared in the April 28 edition of this publication, readers were presented with details regarding the historic Mexican land grant, Rancho del Paso – “Ranch of the Pass.” And in continuing this historical summary, it is important to emphasize Rancho del Paso’s former fame as a nationally-recognized stock farm.
As referenced in the previous article, the Sacramento Record-Union described Rancho del Paso on Feb. 9, 1884 as “second to no other stock farm on the continent.”
As a model stock farm that specialized in the raising of blooded stock, Rancho del Paso featured horses, sheep and cattle.
But of these animals, it was Rancho del Paso’s horses that received the greatest recognition.
But to provide a further indication that the raising of all three of these animals was a serious endeavor, despite the property’s grandest fame for producing many renowned horses, the previously mentioned Record-Union article noted that the upper lands of Rancho del Paso were “used for pasturing purposes, upon which are grazed 20,000 sheep and large herds of cattle and horses.”
In addition to its pasturing property, Rancho del Paso also included areas along the banks of the American River, where grains, hay and hops were grown in rich soil.
The Record-Union article also provides information regarding an area of the rancho, which was known as the “upper place.” The “upper place” was described as being about 9 miles northeast of the city, which at the time did not extend beyond today’s Alhambra Boulevard.
According to the article, a Record-Union reporter visited the “upper place” and observed large barns and corrals, stables, sheep pens and other dwellings.
The reporter noted a well-planned detail: each structure’s purposeful spacing from other structures. This spacing – about 100 yards between each structure – was designed to prevent the rapid spreading of a fire from one dwelling to another dwelling.
The very informative article also provided information regarding the rancho’s water system, which was fairly extensive for the time.
This system was described in the article as follows: “A large steam pump furnishes water to several immense tanks located on different portions of the place, and their water system, so far as quantity and pressure is concerned, is complete and never failing.”
One does not have to look beyond the featured 1884 Record-Union article to encounter a prime example of how Rancho del Paso was synonymous with horse breeding
and also horse racing, as about three quarters of the lengthy article was dedicated to the rancho’s horses.
But the fact that Rancho del Paso included a first-class, three-quarter-mile horse racing track about a half-mile southwest of the stables is a fairly good indication of how serious the rancho was about its horses.
It is no secret where the idea to breed racehorses at Rancho del Paso came from, since the horses’ owner, multi-millionaire James Ben Ali Haggin (1822-1914), also owned estates in his native Kentucky, where he raised racehorses.
Rancho del Paso, which was once recognized as the site of the largest thoroughbred horse-breeding farm in the world, was a natural place for breeding horses, considering its broad open spaces for pasturing and exercising the animals and the nearby river and creeks for water and the growing of oats and alfalfa.
Climate also played a very important role in Haggin’s thoroughbred breeding farm, as is explained in the 1894 Sacramento Bee souvenir book, “Where California Fruits Grow,” as follows: “Two-year-old colts raised in this county are as far advanced and as well developed as are three-year-old animals outside the state. It has been observed by horsemen that California horses, when the racing season opens in the East, show in much better form and perform comparatively better than Eastern horses. The reason is obvious. The mild winters of California allow of horses being continuously exercised and of being in the open field, while Eastern horses are housed in their stables during the greater part of the season and consequently become stale and weak.”
Rancho del Paso horses recognized in the 1884 Record-Union article included a famous trotter, named Echo, a chestnut horse, named Algona, Kyrle Daly, an imported Irish running stallion, Black Prince, a large, black, English draught horse, and a chestnut filly, named Lina.
Kyrle Daly was still living a decade later, as the horse was referred to in The Bee’s aforementioned souvenir book as “the oldest thoroughbred stallion on the (West) Coast.”
Among Haggin’s most notable horses were Salvator, a chestnut horse who held a mile record of 1:35 ½ and was named the U.S. “Horse of the Year” in 1889 and 1890, Firenzi, a multiple national champion who won 47 races and was known as the “Queen of the Turf,” Africander, who won the Belmont Stakes and was honored as the American Champion Three-Year-Old Male Horse in 1903, and Waterboy, who by 1903 had placed first in six out of eight races and set two records.
But no Rancho del Paso horse has a greater legacy than Ben Ali, who, as mentioned in part one of this article, won the 1886 Kentucky Derby. Haggin named the horse in honor of his maternal grandfather, a Turkish physician, named Ibrahim Ben Ali.
Ben Ali, the horse, who was born in Kenucky and matured at Rancho del Paso, won the 12th running of this famous event with a record time of 2:36 ½.
Haggin achieved much wealth through the continuous sales of his Rancho del Paso-bred horses.
The Aug. 11, 1893 edition of the Record-Union, for instance, notes that Haggin sold 15 of his colts during the year’s season for an average of $3,800 each.
Although most Sacramentans today are unaware of the history of Rancho del Paso and its famous horses, the June 8, 1886 edition of the Record-Union reveals a much different recognition during the late 19th century. Included in this edition are the following words: “All Sacramentans feel an interest and pride in the success of the horses from Rancho del Paso in the East.”
A quarter century after establishing his Rancho del Paso stock farm, Haggin had sold the last of the rancho’s horses.
The Rancho del Paso Land Company, which was incorporated in 1891 with Haggin, Tevis and their wives as stockholders, sold the rancho to the Sacramento Valley Colonization Co. for $1.5 million on Dec. 22, 1910.
Despite the eventual suburban development of the historic Rancho del Paso area, many tributes to the historic land grant, as well as Haggin, remain.
These tributes include: Del Paso Boulevard, Del Paso Country Club, the Ben Ali Shrine fraternal organization, Haggin Oaks Golf Complex, Hagginwood Park, off Marysville Boulevard, Salvator Way and Grant High School and its Pacers mascot.
Furthermore, with the establishment of Cal Expo, an unintentional tribute was made to Haggin’s horses through the opening of the ground’s one-mile horse racing track.
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson visited East Sacramento’s Cook Realty and the Rotary Club of East Sacramento in August to address any questions that the citizens had on their minds. At the meetings he fielded questions about tourism, Sacramento’s lackluster downtown and the arena proposal among others. The overall theme of both meetings was one of improvement.
On the morning of Tuesday, Aug. 10, he addressed the workers at Cook Realty. Johnson told the realtors to have faith that the uptick in the housing market is coming. But in order to get that much needed improvement in the local economy, Johnson sees a number of things lacking in Sacramento’s current state.
“I want to create a strong downtown core,” he said. “I look down J, K and L streets and it’s embarrassing.”
The area leaves a lot to be desired both aesthetically and economically, according to Johnson. He said that in order to improve the downtown area, Sacramento needs to be able to lure big business. He proposed that the way to draw more people to Sacramento is to improve local schools.
Johnson spoke glowingly of the improvements in his childhood neighborhood of Oak Park, using it as an example of an area that has improved its school system. At the Rotary Club meeting on Thursday, he said that this November’s school board elections can play a vital role in changing the school situation.
“If we can get the right people (on the school board), we can change everything,” he said.
According to Johnson, Sacramento will never shed its “cow town” label until these things are fixed. He wants Sacramento to become a “destination city” rather than just the halfway point between San Francisco and Lake Tahoe.
“Other major cities are 5-10 years ahead of us right now,” he said. “Sure, we have a good quality of life and there are a lot of trees and all that, but we are capable of so much more.”
He pointed to Downtown Plaza being “40 percent vacant” and that there are holes in the ground with nothing going on around them downtown. He believes strongly that a new arena/events complex can and will bring people to the capital city.
ARCO Arena has fallen into disrepair and simply does not have the power to draw big musical acts to Sacramento, according to Johnson. He stated that being the capital of one of the most powerful economies in the world and having the oldest arena in the NBA does not speak well of the city. But he knows that simply building an arena for the sake of building an arena is not the way to go about it.
“If you’re going to do it, do it right,” Johnson said at the meetings.
He doesn’t want the complex to simply be better than ARCO Arena. He wants it to be state of the art.
“We can do big, we can do bold,” he said. “It’s hard to get people to see that.”
The newest plan in place would have the California State Fair move from its home at Cal Expo out to the current ARCO Arena lot in Natomas; Cal Expo would then be sold and developed over several years and the new arena would sit in the railyard land downtown.
The arena, which Johnson is confident can be had in the next three years, would play a vital role in strengthening the downtown area that he calls embarrassing as it stands now.
Putting the arena on city-owned land at the railyard would cut a substantial amount of cost from a land acquisition aspect, and Johnson assured everyone in attendance that the arena will be built with the taxpayers in mind.
Much of both events was spent answering questions from the audience. The “strong mayor” question was raised at each event, which Johnson was more than happy to explain to everyone. He said that the current system of government in Sacramento does not allow the mayor to have any authority. He even referred to himself as a figurehead at one point and as a “glorified councilmember” at another.
His main concern is that there is no accountability in the way the city is run now. He said that there is no one to blame for the state of the downtown area because everyone just blames each other without any real accountability.
There are a lot of things wrong with Sacramento as it stands now, but Johnson remains confident that a turnaround is indeed possible. Whether or not Sacramento ever becomes the tourist attraction that San Francisco and Lake Tahoe are, Johnson stands firm in his assertion that we can get much better as a city.
Race for the Cure is May 8
Held annually on the Saturday before Mother’s Day, the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, a 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) walk-run event, draws hundreds to Cal Expo every year to raise funds to find a cure for breast cancer. A nasty condition that has affected women in my own family, breast cancer has a deep reach nationwide – 192,370 new cases of invasive breast cancer were estimated to have occurred among women in the United States during 2009, according to Susan G. Komen for the Cure (formerly the Susan G. Komen Foundation).
Since my first Race for the Cure in 2004, I have become an event regular, readily signing up friends and family to join me. Superficially, the race has given me much in the way of healthy living habits: Since my first step in the ’04 race, I work out, eat better, and I now run in a number of events across the country; on a deeper level, the race has had a profound effect on me. Running the event with breast cancer survivors and families affected by the condition has provided much in the way of inspiration and made me thankful for being active – not just in body, but in life.
Thus, I relay the challenge to you: Get up and get over your fitness obstacles – and in doing so, fight breast cancer. To register for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure (held this year on Saturday, May 8), go to www.komensacramento.org and click the “Race for the Cure” tab.
E-mail Ryan Rose at firstname.lastname@example.org.