The 159th edition of the California State Fair and "Fun That Moves You" came to a close with the final fireworks salute of the summer.
The 2012 Fair saw roller-coaster temperatures – ranging from a high of 105 degrees on opening day to a low of 56 degrees on July 13 – along with a successful Concert Series, several value days for families, lots of new Fair food (on and off the stick), and a few records broken.
On Saturday, July 21, total attendance was 60,386, the biggest single-day crowd of the 18-day Fair. And that night, approximately 6,500 fairgoers watched country singer and "American Idol" winner Scotty McCreery perform on the Golden1 Stage. On July 27, legendary rockers Joan Jett & the Blackhearts drew the largest crowd of the 2012 Concert Series: 7,250 fans.
Paid attendance for the Fair was 523,838, which was up slightly from 522,375 in 2011. Total attendance was 691,822. The average daily attendance was 38,435. All reported numbers are preliminary and unaudited.
The new Wells Fargo Savings Days on Wednesdays offered $6 admission for everyone and $15 unlimited-ride wristbands – and proved to be a huge success. The 54,610 fairgoers on July 18 set an attendance record for a Wednesday, only to be surpassed the following Wednesday when 58,255 people came through the gate. Attendance for the two Kids Days, on Tuesdays, totaled 105,473.
"We have a clear understanding that the economy and weather go hand-in-hand," says State Fair general manager Norb Bartosik. "Price points and budgets affect our business, and the economic downturn found our patrons shopping for the best deal and days to visit the Fair. Overall, this has been a great State Fair. It will take us awhile to finalize all of our numbers, but it looks fairly positive."
Over eight days, 460 horses and mules competed in 68 races at the Miller Lite Grandstand, including 56 Thoroughbred races, three Arabian races, three quarter horse races and six mule races. Fans wagered $1.6 million at Cal Expo, $9.9 million at off-track betting centers in California, $3.4 million at out-of-state locations, and $4.7 million on the Internet. Those wagers generated $750,000 to Cal Expo, which offset the expense of operating the race meet. A total of $990,000 was paid out in purse money to all horses and mules.
The livestock program continued in popularity with more than 5,000 animals shown and competed in the Livestock Pavilion. Among the features of this year's Fair were the National Angora Goat Show, and the first National Day of the Cowboy and Cowgirl. California is the second state to pass such a resolution and the first to specify "cowgirl," as well as "cowboy."
For the first time, the State Fair donated produce harvested from "The Farm" to local charities. Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services and California Emergency Foodlink received nearly 2,000 pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables grown at the three-acre demonstration farm.
Over 18 days, fairgoers enjoyed:
3,800 Big Ribs
15,000 pounds of rice
25,000 cinnamon rolls
200,000 corn dogs
Among the 2012 State Fair's featured attractions:
*Wizard's Challenge – An interactive, science-based exhibit with a Harry Potter vibe
*Toytopia 2.0 – Sacramento's Stage Nine Entertainment returned with toys for kids of all ages, including the world's largest Etch-a-Sketch, a gigantic dollhouse and a stuffed-animal zoo.
*Birds in Paradise – A tropical jungle was inhabited by macaws, Amazon parrots, cockatoos and other "singers," along with exotic plants nurtured in Cal Expo's Landscape Yard.
Once again, the California State Fair had a successful Commercial Wine Competition, held in June, when 2,890 wines were received from 688 wineries. Cal Expo will host California's Grape & Gourmet on Aug. 18. Tickets are on sale now at www.calexpo.com