For more than a century, the Alameda County Fair has been a tradition that signals the start of summer. In recent years, nearly a half million people have attended the fair to enjoy its many family friendly attractions. Due to the pandemic, the 2020 fair was cancelled for public health reasons. This year, the fair returns October 21 to 31 as the first Alameda County Fair to be held in autumn. The 2021 theme of Come Together celebrates the revival of the fair and the community reuniting safely after nearly a year and a half of Covid-19 related closures, according to organizers.
Those who love fair food will not be disappointed. The traditional corn dogs, funnel cakes, and deep fried Oreos will be available as usual this year. There will also be a few new menu items, including specialty grilled cheese. Other favorites, such as the Carnival and pig racing are also returning, along with some new entertainment acts, according to Tiffany Cadrette, Marketing and Communications Manager for Alameda County Fair.
Kids of all ages will enjoy special acts like Professor Smart’s Science Show and Bugology 1-0-Fun, Cadrette says. Professor Smart’s Science Show has been performed for hundreds of thousands of people all over the country by Todd Victor, who trained as a juggler and comedian. Victor brings science to life with storytelling and cool demonstrations. Professor Smart’s Comedy Science Shows will be held daily during the fair on the Family Fun Stage. Another family oriented experience is Bug Ology 1-0-Fun: The Good, The Bad & The Yummy. This unique immersive, interactive walk-through exhibit ushers visitors into a classroom for memorable lessons about small pollinators, predators, and more.
The Imperial Knights Extreme Medieval Stunt Show is new to this year’s fair. This exciting show features games with costumed characters on horseback, jousting, sword fighting, and hand-to-hand combat with a variety of medieval weapons. All of the horses that participate in the show are rescue animals. Of course, the All Alaskan Racing Pigs are a crowd favorite when it comes to the fair. This team of animal athletes specialize in flat-track racing, hurdling, and jokes.
Additional attractions include a freestyle motocross team that will be performing “high energy, heart pounding, death defying tricks” dubbed “Kiss of Death” and the “Cliffhanger,” according to fair officials. The team will also perform entertaining backflip variations that will take place 35 feet in the air over a 75-foot gap. Music lovers will also find much to enjoy. The fair is bringing back live concerts at 8 pm nightly, showcasing superstar headliners such as Smash Mouth, WAR, Night Ranger, and more.
The Alameda County Fair is operated by the nonprofit Fair Association and ranks as one of the Top 50 North American Fairs. It has a long history of being associated with local agriculture. According to the report "Rich History, Bright Future: The Alameda County Fair at Pleasanton," Pleasanton's association with agricultural fairs started when its racetrack hosted the Golden Gate Fair in 1902 and then the Pleasanton Fair and Races in 1904.
With an eye to its future as well as the past, in recent years the Fair Association created the nonprofit Alameda County Fair Foundation “with the purpose of keeping the Fair’s mission alive and relevant for future generations,” according to officials. “With an ambitious plan to build strategic partnerships and raise capital funding, the Fair Foundation aims to drive community outreach and youth engagement through the endowment of innovative, technology-based educational programs and facilities.”
What that means in practice may be surprising: The foundation plans to build a state-of-the-art urban farm at the fairgrounds, where nearly two acres of land has been allocated for this project. This urban farm will be a nod to the region’s history as well as a platform for its future. The goal now is to raise the money needed to build The Farm.
As the foundation explains, “STEAM-based (Science, Technology, Engineering, Agriculture & Math) educational exhibition farms are already thriving thanks to innovative organizations throughout the state. Now, the Alameda County Fair Foundation is working to bring this extraordinary community resource to the Bay Area. From solar-powered milking parlors and greenhouse gardens to high-tech beehives, the program will offer kids a hands-on, Mother Nature-meets-cutting-edge-technology, farm-to-table experience. With a focus on health, they will learn all about the foods they eat and the amazing scientific innovations that make feeding and clothing an ever-growing population possible.
“The Farm plans to offer experiential tours for school groups from all over Alameda County and beyond, on a twice-daily basis throughout the year. Expert volunteers from docent groups of master gardeners, local fruit growers, cattle ranchers, and various agribusinesses will be on hand to teach and guide young visitors through the program.”
While it will be some time before The Farm will be built and ready for visitors, preparations for the 2021 Alameda County Fair are underway. Guests will be required to purchase their tickets and seats online ahead of time. The Fair is operating under State and County safety protocols and will continue to offer hand sanitizing stations and touchless payment options. Advance ticket purchase is highly recommended.
“The health and safety of our guests and staff is of the utmost importance and continues to be at the forefront during our reopening,” says Cadrette. “We are actively monitoring and following all State and County guidelines pertaining to Covid-19 and reopening. During the 2021 Fair, tickets will be sold by the day and capacity will be limited to enhance safety and guest experience. This year will be very special; we have never held a Fall Fair.”
For more information about the 2021 Alameda County Fair, please visit annual.alamedacountyfair.com.
For more information about the Alameda County Fairgrounds Fair Foundation and its first project, please visit alamedacountyfair.com/foundation.