SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The 159th edition of the California State Fair and “Fun That Moves You” came to a close Sunday night 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. 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, with 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,” said 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.”
Twenty-nine California counties participated in the Counties Exhibits. Solano County won the Best of Show award.
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.
More than 170 vendors delighted fairgoers with new and innovative food creations, including chocolate-covered wine grapes, chocolate-dipped Key lime pie, deep-fried mac ‘n’ cheese, deep-fried cheeseburger, and pork chop on a stick. Also new to the Fair was the Big Rib, a massive 24-ounce piece of U.S. Prime seasoned beef, slow-cooked onto a 17-inch rib. Hungry fairgoers consumed more than 2,000 Big Ribs.
Mark S. Allen of “Good Day Sacramento” won the media invitational Big Rib Eat-Off in 3 minutes, 30 seconds. Minnesotan Eric Dahl ate 20 corn dogs in eight minutes to win the second annual California State Fair Corn Dog-Eating Competition and the $2,500 grand prize.
Over 18 days, fairgoers enjoyed 3,800 Big Ribs; 5,000 pounds of rice; 25,000 cinnamon rolls; and 200,000 corn dogs.
Fairgoers also witnessed two successful Guinness World Record attempts.
On July 13, Nick Nicora of Ovations – official concessionaire of the State Fair and Cal Expo – mixed the world’s largest cocktail, a 10,500-gallon Margarita called the Calarita, and set a world record.
On July 23-24, Christina Lochmiller of Roseville set her own record when she rode the Eagle 16 Ferris wheel in the Magical Midway for 26 hours, 43 minutes, to bring awareness to children with congenital heart disease.
On July 25, a Canadian man broke Lochmiller’s record with a 30-hour Ferris wheel ride.)
Angel “Izumi” Jones of Fair Oaks outsang the competition to win the 2012 California State Fair Karaoke Competition and $500.
Concert headliners on the Golden1 Stage, in addition to Scotty McCreery, were Cody Simpson, Rick Springfield, Landau Eugene Murphy Jr., Dave Mason, Hot Chelle Rae, Jim Messina, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, the Fab Four – The Ultimate Tribute, and the Happy Together Tour with the Turtles, featuring Flo & Eddie, Monkees lead singer Mickey Dolenz, Gary Puckett & the Union Gap, the Grassroots and the Buckinghams. Radio Disney’s Coco Jones performed an afternoon show on the Golden1 Stage.
Skateboarding legend Tony Hawk brought his Birdhouse Left Coast Tour to the Miller Lite Grandstand for one night. The Sacramento Mile returned to the fair for a night of thrills, witnessed by more than 5,200 motorcycle fans.
Friends of the California State Fair’s annual Brewfest drew large crowds to sample award-winning brews from the Craft Brew Competition.
The last night of the 2012 California State Fair saw huge crowds at Gran Jaripeo con Ezequiel Pena y Mucho Mas, a six-hour spectacular in the Ford Horse Show & Rodeo Arena, featuring bull-riding, a dance and Mexican entertainer Ezequiel Pena.
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 .