California State Fair begins 17-day run July 12

Boy with Beef Cow

Boy with Beef Cow

For many decades, the California State Fair has been known as a well attended event that offers something for everyone. And this year’s edition of the fair is no different.
The buzz regarding the fair, which begins tomorrow, Friday, July 12, and continues until Sunday, July 28, was already in full swing last week when this publication visited with various residents and visitors of the community.
Arden area resident Michelle Jackson said that she is looking forward to the fair’s free concert series.

Roy and Deidra Bagley and their 12-year-old son, Jarek, are among the many families who have made coming to the State Fair an annual tradition. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Roy and Deidra Bagley and their 12-year-old son, Jarek, are among the many families who have made coming to the State Fair an annual tradition. Photo by Lance Armstrong

“I like seeing the concerts,” Jackson said. “In the past, I’ve seen Ciara, Nicki Minaj and some other (artists at the fair). The Four Tops (on July 15) and Kool and the Gang (on July 25) at this year’s fair will be awesome.”
Other artists that will be performing at the fair include Night Ranger (July 12), Weird Al Yankovic (July 14), the Journey tribute band, Evolution (July 19), Grand Funk Railroad (July 20), EnVogue (July 22), Air Supply (July 24) and the Queen tribute band, Queen Nation (July 26).
Jackson added that she also likes going to the fair with two particular groups of people.
“I like going with the (special needs) kids, and I do it for my job,” Jackson said. “I take care of the (special needs children) and the elderly. I usually go with them and have a special day with that. We take the whole group and we get as many volunteers as we can get and let (people in these groups) do the fishing, let them see the animals, let them do whatever they can do at the fair.”
Tahoe Park resident Carol Doring also mentioned music, as well as animal exhibits and food, among her favorite fair attractions.
“I like (those things), and the overall ambience of the fair,” Doring said. “I like the feeling of being with all the people, the happiness that’s there. You don’t see any fights or rowdiness during the day. I’ve been (to the fair) every year for about the last 16, 17 years. And there’s been some improvements, so for the most part it’s better.”
And in commenting about the fair’s food, Carol said that she is a big fan of the funnel cakes.
While observing a schedule of events for the fair, Carmichael resident Doug Drewes pointed to a photograph of the fair’s newest ride, Vertigo, and said, “What’s that (ride)? I just like rides and (having) fun with the kids. I bring my children.”
While en route to go shopping in the Arden area, Yuba City residents Roy and Deidra Bagley and their 12-year-old son, Jarek, noted that they were looking forward to attending the fair on July 16.
“We know we’re going to see the Third Day concert on the 16th,” said Deidra with an enthusiastic tone to her voice.
“One of my favorite things is the Ferris wheel,” Jarek said. “I also like the animals.”
And in response to her son’s comment, Deidra added, “The 16th is kids’ day and all rides are a buck.”
Continuing, Diedra said, “We wouldn’t mind seeing (country and pop singer) LeAnn Rimes (on June 23), but we’ll see.”
Despite his young age, Jarek is much braver than many adults when it comes to eating unusual fair food.
“I like the Rocky Mountain oysters, rattlesnake (meat), buffalo burgers,” Jarek said.
But even Jarek has his limits to such adventures, as during one visit to the fair, he refused to eat chitlins.
“Sometimes I get scared,” Jarek said.

Elk Grove residents Jim and Shiela Tonel give thumbs up to the California State Fair. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Elk Grove residents Jim and Shiela Tonel give thumbs up to the California State Fair. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Roy said that attending the fair has becoming a tradition for his family.
“We’ve come to the fair pretty much every year for the last 10 years,” he said. “I just enjoy being with the family and hanging out. I also like going through the shops and seeing the cool, new gadgets and stuff like that that are for sale there.”
Reina Ortiz, who resides in the city’s Foothill Farms area, also makes coming to the fair a family activity.
“I have three kids, so they love the rides and the food is one of the best (fair offerings),” Ortiz said. “Funnel cakes, those are our favorites. And those (brick of) fries, you know the huge ones? Those are good. We buy one for the three kids and myself and my husband. That’s enough calories for everybody, so not just me. I like to see the magicians. That’s my favorite.”
And like many fairgoers, Ortiz is interested in many of this year’s live music performers.
While pointing to different areas of a listing of the fair’s concerts, Ortiz said, “I’ll probably see this one, this one and this one. I like that (kind of) music. It’s like music that you can understand that has a good message. Nowadays, musicians, they just sing about anything, stupid things, ridiculous things. They’re always (using) obscene language. That’s not good for kids. All bands, they used to sing about love, about situations in your life. That’s what I like, and that’s why I like those kinds of groups.”
Elk Grove resident Jim Tonel, who will be attending this year’s fair with his family, said that he is drawn to the demolition derby (July 19 and 20) and the Sacramento Mile flat track motorcycle racing event (July 27).
Jim, who performed at last year’s fair with a local Filipino association, said that he also enjoys the fair’s rides and food, and noted that he is especially a fan of the corn dogs and barbecued turkey legs.
This year’s fair will include a variety of other attractions, including live horse racing (July 12, 13, 14, 17 and 21), the Brewers’ Festival (July 20), Friday and Saturday night fireworks shows, the Hall of Heroes interactive exhibit, and The Farm, an award-winning demonstration farm.
Fair hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Mondays through Thursdays and 10 a.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.
Admission to the fair is $10/general, $8/seniors, 62 and older, $6/children 5 to 12, and free/ages 4 and younger.
For additional details about the 2013 State Fair, visit the Web site

Taste of Carmichael spotlighted ‘Carmichael’s only winery’: Wreckless Blenders

The Kiwanis Club of Carmichael hosted the 11th annual Taste of Carmichael on May 18 at the La Sierra Community Center. The event, which is a major fundraiser for the club, benefits some 70 different local children’s charities including Little League, boy scouts, girl scouts, fine arts programs, and parks and recreation.

Twenty-five food vendors and 10 wine vendors were on hand for the festivities. The food covered a wide range of delicacies from local eateries. Among the myriad of things to try were Indian, Afghani, Vietnamese, Italian, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese and Persian food. There was a chocolate fountain as well for those in attendance with a sweet tooth.

There were cars on display from Jaguar, Subaru, Chevrolet and Mazda. The Effie Yeaw Nature Center and the Chautauqua Playhouse had booths set up as well. Altogether there were 58 booths full of food, wine and information. Congressman Ami Bera made an appearance as well.

Three live bands (Rio Jazz, Sister Swing and Vintage Fare) serenaded the crowd. “The music was just outstanding this year,” said event co-chair Rod Ward.

Spotlighted was John Troiano and his Wreckless Blenders winery. It boasts the title of ‘Carmichael’s only winery.’ Troiano, who has a bonded winery in his Carmichael home, brought a case of wines from his 2010 vintage.

Troiano began making wine in the late 1970s in New York before moving to California in 1987. He buys his grapes from the state and ferments them in his home winery. Troiano was unaware of the Taste of Carmichael event until he attended it in 2012.

“I’ve been here since 1993 and I didn’t know about it,” Troiano said.

He thought it was a neat community endeavor and decided to get involved in 2013. Wreckless Blenders has been in business since 2008, selling wine mostly through wine clubs, said Troiano.

In 2012, Wreckless Blenders entered four wines into the commercial wine competition at the California State Fair. Three of the wines received a gold award and the fourth received a silver award. Troiano said that he has entered wines in the upcoming 2013 California State Fair as well and is awaiting results.

The event, which had a ticket price of $35, regularly brings in north of 500 people, according to event co-chair George White. There were 150 items up for grabs in a raffle as well as other great prizes that were left to a silent auction.

Many of the raffle prizes included gift baskets that included wine, beer and restaurant gift certificates. Among the silent auction prizes up for grabs to the highest bidder were a lunch with congressman Bera, a sailboat trip on the San Francisco Bay, a fly fishing trip on the Yuba River, and several different kinds of wine.

This year’s event may have been more lightly attended than past events, according to some attendees, but the weather was warm, the food was good, the music was swingin’ and the wine was flowin’.

Climbing up the Bell Tower of St. Mary’s Church

As I drove down M Street toward St. Mary’s Church last week, I gazed up at its bell tower, which dominates the skyline in our neighborhood. It harkened up a long-since forgotten memory.
When I reached 12 years of age, I became an altar boy at the church. In that capacity, I had responsibility for assisting the priests in the service of mass. During that time, a Catholic Brother named George, headed up the altar boy team. He was a nice man, who often played touch football with the boys in the yard at St. Mary’s School. The good brother made sure each service of mass went off without a hitch, so he was always on site at the church when we performed our duties.
One Saturday morning after mass, my fellow altar boy and best friend Lou Viani and I stood talking with Brother George in front of the church. During our conversation, Lou asked the brother if he had ever been up the bell tower of the church. George said he had, and then asked, “Would you like to go up there some time?” Lou and I responded with a resounding, “yes.” Then Brother George said, “I am too busy to do that today, but if you guys meet me here next Thursday, at 7 p.m., I will take you up there.” Wow, we could hardly wait.
So it was, on the next Thursday, Lou and I met Brother George on the front steps of the church, where he let us into the vestibule. From there, we proceeded up the stairway to the glass-enclosed children’s room in the back of the church, then up another flight of stairs to the choir room. There facing the choir room stood a locked door which George unlocked and let us in. Inside the room, we looked straight up to the top of the bell tower. Now we were really exited.
We followed Brother George up four flights of stairs to a stoop at the very top. He then reached up and pulled down a retractable ladder which he climbed up and then slung open a trap door. Into the tower he went and then waved us up. Within seconds, we sat in the tower overlooking the entire landscape of the city of Sacramento. The views were incredible. Looking north we saw Sacramento State College and the H Street Bridge, with cars streaming across it in the waning light. Looking west we saw the lighted dome of the California State Capitol building. Over in the south, we viewed the California State Fair, with lights ablaze as the fair had just opened up.
We sat up in the tower for about 15 minutes, taking in all the sights and wafting in the warm air of a Sacramento Summer night. Finally, Brother George said, “we better get out of here now boys, before it gets too dark. So, down we went to the first floor of the church where we said our good bys and headed home.
I have never forgotten that experience. In the intervening years I have ascended the Eiffel Tower, rode an elevator to the top of the Empire State Building and gone to the top of the Pearl Tower in Shanghai, China, but I think none of those adventures made a greater impression on me than climbing to the top of the St. Mary’s Church bell tower: another unforgettable Janey Way memory.

Greek Festival to be held August 31 through September 2

The 49th Annual Greek Festival, which will have a new feature of an entertainment stage in the center of the venue, will be held Labor Day weekend at the Sacramento Convention Center, 1400 J St., from Friday, Aug. 31 through Sunday, Sept. 2. Festival hours are from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, noon to 11 p.m. Saturday and noon to 10 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $5 for ages 12 and older, $4 for seniors 55 and older and free for children ages 11 and younger. Admission is also free for anyone attending the event on Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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.

The 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.

Festival food
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.

Other attractions
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.

Local youth artists ‘step up’ to be counted the State Fair

The Youth Art & Design Expo at the California State Fair has a number of impressive entries this year, with many from Sacramento County students. / Photo by Susan Laird

The Youth Art & Design Expo at the California State Fair has a number of impressive entries this year, with many from Sacramento County students. / Photo by Susan Laird

For the last 158 years, Californians have proudly celebrated the talent and bounty of this great land at the annual California State Fair.
Whether in good times or tough ones, somehow the good folks of the Golden State manage to “step up to the plate” and show why there is always hope for the future.
Case in point, a number of Sacramento County’s youth artists – those in middle school and high school – submitted art work for the Youth Art & Design Expo. This is juried art show at the State Fair. And the young people did very well.
In fact, there were some 840 entries from Sacramento County’s young people that were judged good enough to win ribbons for first, second and third places, plus honorable mention. Not every entry was awarded a ribbon, so honorable mentions from this juried show are a significant accomplishment.
The titles of the submitted works are lively and imaginative – and seeing the creativity and talent of this younger generation is a great encouragement to fairgoers, as well as fun entertainment.

Here are a few of the schools in the Valley Community Newspapers readership area that are represented at this year’s fair:
West Campus High School

Pocket resident Isabel Moniz won first place for “Ode to Nature” (Pen, Pencil & Printmaking) and a third place ribbon for “Feathers” (Pen, Pencil & Printmaking). Arden Middle School
Jessica Allen received an impressive seven ribbons for multiple entries in different art categories at this year’s fair. Her 3D sculpture, “Googlie,” received an IMCO Ceramics Award and a second place ribbon. Two more 3D sculptures, “Chicken” and “Peace of Pie” received honorable mentions. Jessica received two third place ribbons for “Lucid Mindset” (Pen, Pencil & Printmaking) and “Glow” (Photography). She received an additional honorable mention for “Tree of Life” (Pen, Pencil & Printmaking).
Sam Brannan Middle School
Erinn Wong won a second place ribbon for “My Memory of Grandma Po Gee Lo” (Scrapbooks & Collections).
California Montessori Project
Sarah Bauer won two first place ribbons for her photography in the age 5 to 9 category. Her images of “Graffiti Wall” and “One Lonely Light” are on display. She received an honorable mention for “Chinese Restaurant.”
Christian Brothers High School
Morgan Gable won a second place ribbon for “Moon and Sun” (Wood items) and an honorable mention for “Cabin Sweet Cabin” (Any Other Craft or Hobby).
Julia Grajeda won the Best of Class trophy and a first place ribbon for her “Travel Backpack” in the Any Other Sewing Project category. She won two additional first place ribbons for “Plaid Sweatshirt” (Single Clothing Item) and “Pretty Pink Pillow” (Any Other Sewing Project). Julie also won a red ribbon for “Tie-Dye Tote Bag” (Any Other Sewing Project) and a third place ribbon for “Purple Skirt” (Single Clothing Item).
Crocker Riverside Elementary
Annabelle Long won a first place ribbon for her watercolor painting, “Hungry,” and an honorable mention for her painting, “Awe.”
Del Dayo Elementary
Ressa Eliza Artz received three ribbons at the fair: first place for “The Call of Autumn” (Quilts), first place for “Carmelo Mission” (Digitally Manipulated Photography) and an honorable mention for “Pondering Woodpecker” (Photography).
Nathaniel Heron received a third place ribbon for his entry, “Frosty Friend” (Mixed Media).
Mary Deterding Elementary
This local school had a significant number of entries at this year’s fair.
Liliana Adkins won a second place ribbon for her Mixed Media category entry, “Transformation.”
Azul Baker received an honorable mention for “Wild Warrior” (Any Other Craft or Hobby).
Christopher Chang won third place for “Eagles’ Eye” (Paintings).
Harper Colby won a first place ribbon for his “Sea Turtle Seascape” (Paintings).
Benjamin Davis received an honorable mention for his “Ramshead Still Life” (Watercolor).
Sophia Deboer received an honorable mention for “New York” (Pen, Pencil & Printmaking).
Mark Elliott won a second place ribbon for his Pastel & Charcoal entry, “Chimera.”
Bella Espinosa won two first place ribbons for “Pastel Piece” (Pastel & Charcoal) and “Plants in the Sunlight” (Watercolor).
Kailey Hall won the Prismacolor Art Excellence Award and a first place ribbon for “Leaves And Caterpillars” (Pen, Pencil & Printmaking).
Jack Harris won third place for “Still Life In Spain” (Watercolor).
William Heron won first place for his “Self Portrait” (Watercolor).
Tucker Marlin received an honorable mention for his Mixed Media entry, “The Super Gumball Machine.”
Ethan McHugh won two third place ribbons for “Monsters at Sea” (Mixed Media) and “Red Eyed Bird” (Pastel & Charcoal).
Ashley Poole won a second place ribbon for her 3D Sculpture entry, “The Spirit Of The Walrus.”
Levi Rankin won the Fay Schusterman Award and first place for his Mixed Media work, “Dragons Of The Sun.”
Hunter Witham received an honorable mention for “Pastoral Seraffito” (Mixed Media).
Hallie Yong received an honorable mention for her Pastel & Charcoal entry, “Cupcakes for Sale.”
Vivian Zerkle won a second place ribbon for “Washington Monument” and a third place ribbon for “Cherry Blossom” both in the Photography category. She received honorable mentions for “Sinningia bullata” (Photography) and “Botany And A Bug” (Watercolor).
Genevieve Didion Elementary
Derek Yuan won a first place ribbon for “Pacific Fair” (Mixed Media), second place ribbons for “Sunset On The Shore” (Watercolor) and “After Snow” (Pastel & Charcoal). He received honorable mentions for his Pastel & Charcoal entries, “What A Blossom!” and “Enjoy The Vacation, Enjoy The Life!”
Evan Yuan won a first place ribbon for his Mixed Media entry, “Three Pals.”
John F. Kennedy High School
Kelly Peng received honorable mentions for her Pastel & Charcoal entries, “Chinese Orchid” and “Spring Bird.”
Briana Santiago won a first place ribbon for “No Two Alike” (Mixed Media).
Casey Wong won a third place ribbon for her 3D Sculpture entry, “Scenic Lantern” and received an honorable mention for “Bridge Of Hope” (Wood Items).
Matsuyama Elementary
Gabriela Ham won two third place ribbons for “Cherry Blossom Hills” (Mixed Media) and “Spring Fountain” (3D Sculpture). She received an honorable mention for “Easter Bunny” (Paintings).
Lauren Ham won second place for “A Day In Fruit Garden” (Pastel & Charcoal). She received honorable mentions for “Rose And Butterflies” (Watercolor) and “My Neighbor’s Dog” (Pastel & Charcoal).
Janice Ng won a first place ribbon for “Myths of Dragon” (Mixed Media) and a third place ribbon for “Birds’ Paradise” (Pen, Pencil & Printmaking).
C.K. McClatchy High School
Maxwell Bauer’s photography was well received at the fair. Maxwell won first place for “Primary Houses,” a third place ribbon for “A Modern Concert” and an honorable mention for “Rows.”
Sierra Brown won a blue ribbon for “Spirals of Smoke” (Photography) and a second place ribbon for “A Cat Always Nose” (Photography). Sierra received honorable mentions for “Another Day on the Farm” (Photography) and “Jack the Rabbit” and “Overflowing” (both 3D Sculpture).
Mira Loma High School
Sarah Liu received honorable mentions for “Two Orchids in Bloom” and “Hibiscus With Leaves,” both in the Pastel & Charcoal category.
Mission Avenue Open School
Jake Reuter received an honorable mention for “Crysanthimum” (Pastel & Charcoal).
Tina Reuter won a first place ribbon for “Your Heart Is In My Hands” (Pastel & Charcoal).
Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic School
Caroline Crowley received an honorable mention for her Watercolor entry, “Penguino.”
Cecilia Crowley won a first place ribbon for “Birch Trees” (Paintings) and two honorable mentions for “Beaded Garden” (3D Sculpture) and “Time” (Wood Items).
Presentation School
Jake Melavic won first place for “Coit Tower In Spring” (Watercolor).
Megan Melavic received two honorable mentions for “Owl” and “Sea Life” (both Pastel & Charcoal entries).
Rio Americano High School
Aaron Boulger won first place for “New Orleans Entertainer” and third place for “Domino Sugar” (both Photography). He received an honorable mention for “Mather Bunkers” (Photography).
Leah Curry won a second place ribbon for “Water Drop Rose” (Watercolor).
Austin Hicks won Best of Class and first place for “Taxi Tails” (Photography). Austin also won first place for “You Caught Me” and second place for “A Warning in Red” (both Photography).
Saint Francis High School
Always a powerhouse in the world of the arts, the Troubadours proved that they continue to have “the right stuff” at the State Fair. Art is just a one semester requirement at St. Francis, but over 80 percent of the student body take additional art classes.
Tessie Berghoff won third place for “The Dark Rose” (Pastel & Charcoal).
Katie Chappelle won third place for her untitled work in Photography.
Jessica Cosca won second place for “I’m Thirsty” (Photography).
Megan Daly won first place for “Synesthesia” (Pastel & Charcoal).
Morgan Finegan won second place for “Tears” (Pastel & Charcoal).
Megan Foy received an honorable mention for “Maya” (Paintings).
Jessica Gutierrez won third place for “Flora” and received an honorable mention for “Laconsentida” (both Photography).
Grace Hollingsworth won first place for “Angel” (Photography).
Clarissa James won third place for “Above Bunny Falls” (Paintings).
Jinyan Li received an honorable mention for “Blessed Mother” (Paintings).
Victoria Ogorodnikov received an honorable mention for “Spence In The Kitchen” (Pastel & Charcoal).
Bianca Quiroz received an honorable mention for “True Beauty & Snow Queen” (Digitally Manipulated Photography).
Gabriella Riegos won second place for “Tomassy” (Digitally Manipulated Photography).
Melanie Rogers-Mantel received honorable mentions for “Venice In Blue” (Paintings) and “Self Portrait” (Pastel & Charcoal).
Natalia Smith won third place for “Tiger” (Pen, Pencil & Printmaking).
Kenall Spector received an honorable mention for “The White Moon” (Digitally Manipulated Photography).
Danielle Villaluna won first place for “A Bus In London” (Pastel & Charcoal) and received an honorable mention for “Gypsy” (Mixed Media).
Sydney Wall won a third place ribbon for her “Self Portrait” (Photography).
Frances Wiese won a third place ribbon for “Native To The Sun” (Mixed Media).
Saint Ignatius Loyola Parish School
William Legrand received an honorable mention for “Foothill Cottage” (Paintings).
Kaj Olson won a third place ribbon for “Velvet Two” (Photography).
Saint Mary Elementary School
LeeAnn Matthews received much recognition for her sewing talents. LeeAnn won first place ribbons for “Blue Dot Skirt” (Single Clothing Item) and “Pillow Fight Pack” (Any Other Sewing Project), second place ribbons for “Calico Flower” (Quilts) and “It’s a Hoot” (Quilts) and a third place ribbon for “Groovy Dot” (Single Item Clothing).
Amelia Ross received an honorable mention for “Hearts On A String” (3D Sculpture).
Fiona Ross won a third place ribbon for “Green Scarf” (Needlecraft).
Shalom School
Oliver Black won first place for his 3D Sculpture entry, “Folding Cup.”
Daniel Levine won third place for “Hamburger” (3D Sculpture).
Zoe Osorio received an honorable mention for “Blooming” (3D Sculpture).
Sutter Middle School
Benjamin Bauer won a third place ribbon for “Tic-Tac-Toe” and an honorable mention for “Patterns” (both Photography).
Santana Garcia won two third place ribbons for “Puddle of Youth” and “You Make Beautiful Things” (both Photography). Santana also received an honorable mention for “Nature’s Heart” (Photography).
Caitlin McLaughlin won third place for “Beautiful Treasures” and received an honorable mention for “Unique” (both Pen, Pencil & Printmaking).
Aaron Won won first place for “Escape” and received honorable mentions for “Mysterious Garden” and “Reflection” (all Watercolor).
The California State runs through July 29 at Cal Expo, located at 1600 Exposition Boulevard in Sacramento. Fair hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Visit for admission and Midway information.

159th State Fair opens at Cal Expo

This year’s State Fair offers a wide variety of midway rides and other attractions. / Photo courtesy of the California State Fair

This year’s State Fair offers a wide variety of midway rides and other attractions. / Photo courtesy of the California State Fair

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

Funderland celebrates 65th anniversary

Thousands upon thousands of children have passed through the gates of Funderland, Land Park’s small-scale, old-fashioned amusement park for young children.

And despite its longtime identity issue, as it is often overshadowed by or confused with its neighboring Fairytale Town, Funderland actually predates Fairytale Town by more than a decade.

Another aspect regarding Funderland, which is located at 1350 17th Ave. in William Land Park, is that despite the fact that there are many people who are aware of Fairytale Town, but not Funderland, the ownership of Funderland actually contributes a portion of its annual gross revenue to the city of Sacramento for the support of Fairytale Town, the Sacramento Zoo and William Land Park. In 2010, for instance, Funderland contributed $178,606 to the city.

But certainly, there are plenty of people who are very aware of Funderland, which was originally known as Kiddie Land.

This is an obvious point, when considering that Kiddie Land/Funderland’s history dates back to 1946.

For more than 30 years, Kiddie Land was owned and operated by its founder Ray Silva (1910-1996).

A Sacramento native, Ray was the son of the Portuguese immigrant Charles Silva (1867-1944), who founded Charles Station, the area that later became known as South Land Park Hills.

In having such a self-motivated, hardworking and business-minded father (read the Charles Silva story at, Ray was led by example, as he developed his own successful life.

In addition to operating Kiddie Land, Ray, who was one of 11 children, also refereed collegiate and American Basketball League (a forerunner to the NBA) games, and later, from 1944 to 1955, he was a referee for the Harlem Globetrotters.

During his last year with the world-famous “Trotters,” Ray did his own globe trotting with the team, as he refereed games in Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines and many parts of Asia.

Two years following his decade with the Globetrotters, Ray, along with local businessmen, John Silva (not related to Ray) and Edwin A. Beers, founded the Miller Park boat harbor on the Sacramento River.

Ray was also on the planning committee for Fairytale Town, which opened in 1959, and he donated the complex’s pirate ship “in memory of the Charles F. Silva family.”

In his earlier years of life, Ray worked for the city’s recreation department as a supervisor of playgrounds, and in 1928, he founded the Southside Athletic Club, which was an organization dedicated to promoting sports for youth.

Ray, who was a member of the Dante Club soccer team that won the Northern California championship in the 1930s, also played an important role at the California State Fair, as an assistant manager in charge of racing, tickets and rentals from 1931 to 1942.

About a month prior to his 26th birthday on Aug. 16, 1936, Ray married Rosalind Fraser, who had been crowned the first Miss Sacramento a year earlier.

Ray and Rosalind’s only child, Raelyn (Silva) Paige, who was born in 1941 and owned Kiddie Land from 1978 to 1983, said that her father opened Kiddie Land with only a merry-go-round.

Ray later added about eight other rides that furthered the amusement park’s reputation as a favorite destination for many Sacramento children.

Sacramento native Don Conner said that he may have visited Kiddie Land as early as 1949, considering that he was born in 1947 and that some of his earliest memories in life are of visiting Kiddie Land.

“I remember going (to Kiddie Land) with my father (Elmer) and on some occasions my mother (Jessie) and my sister (Marcia) would also go,” Conner said. “They had a set of railroad tracks with a miniature train and a conductor with one of those striped, railroad hats and it just went around and around a loop. I also went on the merry-go-round, which was right near the front entrance. It was always delightful with lots of things to distract one’s attention.”

Conner also recalls the other attractions in the area, which included Eddie Fernandes’ pony rides, fishing in the park’s lake and the William Land Park Zoo, as the Sacramento Zoo was then known.

Stan Bento, a 1970 graduate of Christian Brothers High School, worked at Kiddie Land during summers while he was still in high school.

Bento, who noted that Ray emphasized safety and cleanliness at his amusement park, said that rides during this era included the merry-go-round, the railroad, the fish ride, a boat ride and the Tubs of Fun.

The Tubs of Fun were manufactured by Hampton Rides of Portage Des Sioux, Mo. and the carousel was built in 1948 in Buffalo, N.Y. by Allan Hershell.

Remembering these rides is no problem for Bento since he spent time working at each ride.

“We (the workers) would have rotations and we would stand by each ride and I think every hour or every 45 minutes we would rotate to different rides,” Bento recalled.

Among the other Kiddie Land workers during this time were Christian Brothers High School students Kevin Fleming, Mike Fleming and Dennis Bertacchi.

In 1984, carnival operator Sam Johnston purchased Kiddie Land through an auction and after operating the park in its original state, he replaced most of the old rides with completely new rides, which led to a re-grand opening of the amusement park in 1990.

Newer rides at the park include the Flying Dragon roller coaster, the Log Run water log ride and the Crazy Cups ride.

Funderland also includes miniature buildings, which Johnston added throughout the amusement park’s grounds.

Johnston’s history with Ray dates back to 1958, when he helped his father – also Sam Johnston – and Ray put in an amusement facility in Micke Grove Park in Lodi.

In recent years, Johnston’s son-in-law John Dedds has managed Funderland with his wife, Ashley.

Prior to this time and for about three years, Johnston’s other daughter, Spring, managed the amusement park with her husband.

Johnston, who is known for his easy going demeanor and infectious smile, which are both good qualities for a man who operates a place called Funderland, said that he has enjoyed his years at Funderland.

“I’ve got a lot of enjoyment out of providing a safe recreational amusement facility for the children of Sacramento and I want to continue carrying on the tradition that Ray Silva started,” Johnston said. “I don’t feel like I’ve ever worked a day in my life. I love it here.”

Funderland’s summer hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends.

For additional information regarding Funderland, call (916) 456-0131 or visit the Web site,

Land Park Labrador wins first place at California State Fair

The opening weekend of the 2011 California State Fair ended with a ‘splash’ for Land Park residents Terry Schanz and Guy Strahl.

LAND PARK RESIDENT Winnie, a 10-month old Labrador retriever, won a first place ribbon at the California State Fair for her winning feat of canine flight – a leap of 9 feet, 11 inches in the “Splash Division” of the dock diving competition. / Photo courtesy Terry Schanz

LAND PARK RESIDENT Winnie, a 10-month old Labrador retriever, won a first place ribbon at the California State Fair for her winning feat of canine flight – a leap of 9 feet, 11 inches in the “Splash Division” of the dock diving competition. / Photo courtesy Terry Schanz

Schanz’s two-year old black Labrador retriever, Nelson, and Strahl’s 10-month old chocolate Labrador retriever, Winnie, both entered the State Fair’s “Splash Dog” dock diving competition. They had an eye on winning and were ready to get wet.

Located just outside the Cal Expo horse track, participating pooches sprinted along an astroturf lined, elevated ramp before leaping into a 30-foot long, 30,000 gallon pool.

Fairgoers filled bleachers around the pool to cheer on the competitors and catch a glimpse of the over 200 dogs participating in this year’s feats of canine flight. High-speed cameras measured the moment of splashdown and caught all the action on tape.

The competition was intense. Pembroke Welsh corgis from South San Francisco went head to head (and tail to tail) for distance with Australian shepherds from Simi Valley during the four day competition, which was open to dogs of any breed.

This was Nelson’s second entry into State Fair competition. Last year, he scored a third place ribbon in the beginners’ “Splash Division” with a distance of 11 feet, 2 inches. This year, while not ending up in the finals, Nelson did move up to the “Senior Division” with a personal best distance of 16 feet, 9 inches.

Winnie’s first attempt at dock diving wasn’t one for the record books. Having never entered a competition before, she initially just stood at the end of the dock and barked at Strahl when he threw a tennis ball into the pool. After a brief pep talk, she did qualify for the finals in the ‘splash division’ with a jump of 7 feet, 4 inches.

As she prepared for the finals, Nelson offered barks of encouragement and a quick game of catch to keep her focused before the big event. The hometown pup was cheered on by a crowd of friends and family as she approached the dock, ready for her moment with fate.

With a winning distance of 9 feet, 11 inches, Winnie clinched the championship and was awarded a first place ribbon, making her the state’s top-ranked dock diving dog in the “Splash Division” for 2011. Winnie took her win in stride and celebrated with a nap during the ride home.

Quite a day for the little puppy.

Winnie’s next big goal? A walk in Capitol Park with California’s most famous pooch, Sutter Brown, the First Dog.

Readers can view Winnie’s winning jump video at

California State Fair: It’s time to eat ‘fair-style’ once again

The waiting is finally over. The always anticipated California State Fair opens today, July 14, and with it comes its usual traditions, which of course include “fair food.”

Unique fried foods like the ones advertised on this sign at a past California State Fair are among the annual event’s most popular edible items. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Unique fried foods like the ones advertised on this sign at a past California State Fair are among the annual event’s most popular edible items. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

This is the time that guests of the event put aside their general eating habits and partake in a wide variety of edible assortments ranging from longtime favorites such as corn dogs and cotton candy to just about any fried food imaginable.

Although many reports have been made regarding the fair’s food offerings, less emphasis is generally placed on the food vendors themselves.

And these vendors undoubtedly have many unique details to tell about themselves and their histories in business.

Despite their busy schedules as they prepared for this year’s fair, several vendors dedicated time to share information about themselves, the fair and their food offerings.

Milo Franks’ corn dog stands

One such individual was corn dog vendor Milo Franks, who volunteered the obvious observation that he has a surname that is quite fitting for a man in his line of business.

Franks, 61, who lives in Pilot Hill, near Auburn, said that he has seen the concessions at Cal Expo grow tremendously in his four decades of selling corn dogs at the State Fair.

“I’ve been working at the State Fair since the second year it was here (at Cal Expo) in the new facilities,” said Franks, who also sells pizzas with dough made on the fair’s premises. “I can remember there were stands here that were actually made out of those cargo vans that you can rent nowadays. And there were tents back then. Guys used to call them knock down joints. They were canvas (with 2-foot by 4-foot boards). Now it’s just nothing to have $2,000 or more invested in a stand.”

In an attempt to bring entertainment to the fair, Franks is working with his secretary, Georgeanne Clasen, to present the California State Fair’s first corn dog eating contest.

Milo Franks, who has been selling corn dogs at the State Fair for four decades, passes out a cash reward for a corn dog eating contest. The contest will make its California State Fair debut on July 21. / Photo courtesy, Georgeanne Clasen

Milo Franks, who has been selling corn dogs at the State Fair for four decades, passes out a cash reward for a corn dog eating contest. The contest will make its California State Fair debut on July 21. / Photo courtesy, Georgeanne Clasen

The qualifying round of the contest will be held on July 21 and 22 and the finals will be held on July 23.

The cost to enter the contest is $30 and the first place prize is $2,000, second prize is $500 and third is $300.

Although Franks, who enjoys racing hot rods at the Sacramento Raceway in his spare time, has spent two-thirds of his life as a corn dog salesman, he said that his initial plan was to be an industrial arts teacher, so he would not have to work during summers.

Franks said that ironically, he has not had a summer off in 42 years, but added if he ever retires, he will build a car and race in all of the National Hot Rod Association meets around the country.

Jungle George’s Exotic Meats and Bugs

Certainly, fair food offerings are much different today than when Franks began selling corn dogs at the fair.

A prime example of this fact is the Jungle George’s Exotic Meats and Bugs trailer, which is operated by Fremont, Calif. resident George Sandefur, a 38-year fair vendor, who began his career working in his native state of Indiana.

Sandefur said that he offers about 18 different, unusual meats such as alligator, python, raccoon and beaver meats and a full line of bugs from scorpions to crickets to maggots.

“We sell a lot of strange and unusual stuff,” Sandefur said. “Our new sandwich this year is our Maggot Melt, which is like a patty melt, but instead of a burger, it has maggots. We also have desserts, including deep fried butter and deep fried jelly beans.”

Offering unusual edibles was not always one of his trademarks, explained Sandefur.

“My trailer used to be a chicken trailer, but it just wasn’t doing what I wanted it to do,” recalled Sandefur, who has one child and five grandchildren. “So, last year, the California State Fair called and asked me to do something strange. I said, ‘How strange?’ They said, ‘Oh, maybe some strange meat or alligator or something like that.’”

Sandefur, who enjoys boating, swimming and flying standard, single engine airplanes during his spare time, said that by the following April, he introduced alligator meat, Rocky Mountain oysters and other unusual offerings at the Maricopa County Fair in Phoenix and sold out his inventory in about an hour.

“I said, ‘Oh, well, maybe I’ve got something here,’” said Sandefur, whose personal favorite exotic menu items are his alligator and yak burgers. “We just kept adding (unusual food items) and finally at the State Fair, we had probably 14 or 15 different meats and we added bugs. I just keep going on and trying to see how strange and ‘wow’ I can get. I believe that patrons, especially the younger crowd, are looking for more than standard fair food these days. They want something you can’t go to a restaurant and get. They just want something ‘wow.’”

Tempura, Inc.

Tempura, Inc. owner Grace Wang has been working at fairs for more than 15 years, and has two trailers at this year’s State Fair.

Wang, who is assisted in the business by her husband Richard, who designed and built one of Tempura, Inc.’s trailers, said that she is very excited about introducing crepes to guests of the State Fair through her Grace’s Crepes trailer.

“They never had crepes at the State Fair before,” said Wang, a native of the northeast part of China. “The reason why we wanted to bring this new crepe trailer to the State Fair is because we wanted to bring healthy food to the fair. We want to do less fried stuff. Our crepes, we do everything from scratch and this is our own recipe. We have about 12 different kinds of crepes.”

Tempura, Inc.’s other trailer will feature the Fresh Mexican Grill with quesadillas, chicken and beef fajitas, enchiladas, burritos, a nine-item plate, called the “Super 9,” fresh tortillas and homemade salsa and guacamole.

Wang said that some of her passions in life are reading books, attending seminars and living in Carmichael.

Regarding Carmichael, she said, “It is a relatively old community, so it’s very quiet with a lot of trees, big yards and very nice neighborhoods. I really like it. My (two) kids play with the neighbor kids, and it’s very safe.”

California Ice Cream Co.

Relatively newcomers to the State Fair, but 20-year veterans of the fair circuit, Galt residents Philip and Crystal Miller are adding sweetness to this year’s fair through their California Ice Cream Co. offerings.

The business features different flavors of ice cream, banana splits, sundaes, a McDonald’s McFlurry-like ice cream cup and their new item, a bacon maple sundae.

Crystal said that eating the bacon maple sundae is like having “breakfast in a cup.”

As a helpful tip in finding her business trailer, Crystal noted that the trailer is purple and pink and is decorated with an image of a snowball-throwing polar bear, named Cal.

When they are not working at fairs, the Millers devote time to Galt High School. Crystal is the assistant director of the color guard and Richard is a volunteer visual arts coordinator.

Although Crystal hopes that many people take advantage of the many food offerings at this year’s State Fair, she stressed that she is desirous that people come to the fair, in general.

“I hope everyone comes out and enjoys the fair,” Crystal said. “I know times are tough, but there’s a lot to do, so it’s well worth the entrance ticket.”

Celebrating 75 years of the Sacramento County Fair

This year’s Sacramento County Fair is no ordinary year for this annual event. In addition to celebrating its 75th year, the fair also faces unprecedented financial challenges.
The Sacramento County Fair, which opens today at noon and continues through Memorial Day, provides entertainment for the entire family. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

The Sacramento County Fair, which opens today at noon and continues through Memorial Day, provides entertainment for the entire family. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

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

Galt FFA member Walt Hoyt stands alongside his 1,349-pound steer at the 2007 Sacramento County Fair. Livestock auctions are a tradition of the fair, which has been held in Sacramento since 1954./ Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Galt FFA member Walt Hoyt stands alongside his 1,349-pound steer at the 2007 Sacramento County Fair. Livestock auctions are a tradition of the fair, which has been held in Sacramento since 1954./ Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Few local events can boast such a longtime tradition as the Sacramento County Fair, which has been held at Cal Expo since 1969, with the exception of 1990, when Cal Expo’s Livestock Pavilion was under construction. For that single year, the fair was located in two separate venues: the Galt Livestock Market in the south Sacramento County city of Galt and the Placer County Fairgrounds in Roseville. The event’s inclusion of the Roseville site marked the first and only time that the fair was held outside of Sacramento County.

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.

T.J. Plew, the Sacramento County Fair’s CEO and manager, shows off a wooden sign celebrating the fair’s 1937 founding. / Photo courtesy, Sacramento County Fair

T.J. Plew, the Sacramento County Fair’s CEO and manager, shows off a wooden sign celebrating the fair’s 1937 founding. / Photo courtesy, Sacramento County Fair

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

This 1945 Sacramento County Fair and Horse Show first place ribbon and plaque, which is on loan from Geoff Kenefick to the fair’s administration office, is among the awards that were presented during the fair’s existence in Galt./ Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

This 1945 Sacramento County Fair and Horse Show first place ribbon and plaque, which is on loan from Geoff Kenefick to the fair’s administration office, is among the awards that were presented during the fair’s existence in Galt./ Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

“Mommy Lounge.”

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