El Dorado County’s exhibit at the California State Fair won a Bronze Award. Photo by Susan Laird

Spotlight Columns

160th California State Fair features major improvements, upgrades and bigger fun

By From page B2 | July 16, 2014

After enduring many years of challenge, the Golden Bear at the 160th California State Fair is roaring back.

New CEO, new team
Led by a new CEO, Rick Pickering, this year’s fair enlisted a new marketing firm, a new website and new talent

You won’t believe your eyes. The changes for this year were long overdue — and well deserved.

“There is more shade, more shaded seating and expanded walkways,” Pickering said. “We moved the demonstration kitchen from the Cal Expo Building over next to The Farm in the California Building. It is truly ‘Farm to the Fork.’”

New farm
Speaking of The Farm: it is completely remodeled and beautiful. It is three acres of productivity and beautiful layout. There is even a spot for families to have a “photo op” on a tractor. Master Gardeners are on hand to answer every type of question. There is a garden creature exhibit there, complete with bugs and reptiles.

Next to the gardens of The Farm is an exhibit on California aquaculture. Huge tanks of farmed fish are ready to greet visitors. The friendliness of the baby carp impressed me. I doubt I’ll eat caviar ever again … the creatures are so trusting. But I digress.

More counties
“There are more counties exhibiting this year,” Pickering said. “We visited each county and showed them that, rather than viewing the fair as another expense, they should view the counties exhibit as an opportunity to showcase the best their county has to offer.”

And the counties responded — in a big way!

The majority of county exhibits are animated, colorful and informative. Glenn County won best of show. Amador, Placer and Sacramento counties each won Gold Awards for their exhibits.

Our beloved El Dorado County partnered with Contra Costa County. The exhibit is a tad confusing visually — El Dorado County is on the left side of a red barn; Contra Costa is on the right.

More exhibits, activities
There is much to see and do this year. There are exhibits on water conservation, celebrating 150 years of California’s state parks, a candy exhibit (did you know that 90 percent of America’s candy is produced in the Golden State?), a Beach Buddy Adventure, the TreeCircus Climbing Experience, and of course the animal exhibits, horse racing, the Midway and the music concerts. You can find it all online.

A racy idea
An effort to see the fair from the eyes of a child is obvious. Want to know where the racetrack is? Look down for horses painted on the ground. Follow their noses to the races. Want to leave the race track? Follow their tails to the fair.

Check out the Sacramento Republic FC at Cal Expo’s Bonney Field. There will be matches with teams from Orlando, Pittsburgh and Europe.

Big City
Cal Expo is a small city. Nearly 8,000 people work at the fair to make sure you enjoy yourself.

Included in that number are nearly 300 law enforcement officers. Some will be in uniform. Others will be in civilian garb. These folks are local LEOs, including the undercover gang detail.

“The safest place to be is the California State Fair,” Pickering said.

New website
Big fun isn’t without big challenges. Pickering waxed apologetic about the fair’s website.

“We wanted to upgrade the website and ran into a bunch of hiccups,” he said.

One of the most embarrassing things: The fair didn’t own its domain name. So, “bigfun.org” now re-directs to castatefair.org. The new website is better than the old one. The fair plans to expand it with more up-to-date features as the fair grows each year.

Pick your adventure
The fair took more than just the letters from Disney’s California Adventure. Online, you can purchase tickets and plan your day, similar to how you might plan a day at Disneyland. Choose your adventure: by day or by category.

It’s a great way to maximize your experience and enjoy a Sacramento Valley tradition. Ticket sales are up, and this may well be one of the best fair years on record. Don’t miss out!

The California State Fair runs through July 27 and is located at 1600 Exposition Blvd. in Sacramento. Visit online or call (916) 263-FAIR for hours and admission information.

Send your event for consideration in Susan’s column to slaird@handywriting.com.

Susan Laird


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