Fair Enough

It’s that time of year again. Not the All-Star Game and the Home Run Derby; that’s next week. I’m talking about county fair season.

We’re lucky in being within easy driving distance of several fairs. After last year’s hideous disappointment–no strawberry shortcake!–at the Solano County Fair, we decided to give the Alameda County Fair a try this year.

The Solano fair is squarely focused on its agricultural roots (sorry)–the arts and crafts section stresses preserving and canning, for example, and the animals, large and small, occupy a major chunk of the grounds.

By contrast, at the Alameda fair, the crafts fit into a single building, and most of the food-related items were baked goods, rather than jams or pickled veggies. The small animals–mostly rabbits and chickens–had a central location, but the larger animals were tucked away at one edge of the grounds. We didn’t find them until late. On the other hand, there are more carnival rides, bigger musical acts, and booths are skewed far more toward businesses than local community services.

The different emphasis isn’t a surprise. Alameda County contains Berkeley, Oakland, and several other significant urban centers. Solano County’s largest city is Vallejo, and the total population is roughly a quarter of Alameda County’s.

And none of the above should be taken to suggest that the Alameda fair isn’t enjoyable. Whether you’re interested in matters agricultural or not, you can have a good time at either fair. Just set your expectations appropriately.

The smaller craft area in Alameda does mean there are fewer gonzo art pieces–nothing like Xathanael Todd’s creations, unfortunately. But there were a few goodies.

Nieves Winslow’s “Blue Girl” will melt your brain–and I mean that in the best possible way.

Some of the media-themed place settings were quite well-done. I was particularly taken by Donna Blevins’ take on Arsenic and Old Lace.

Here’s a closer look at the menu. I suggest you skip the wine.

Jacqueline Tiffany Yeung impressed us with her weapons design skill.

But we were rather less impressed with Krystlee Weaver’s ability.
Bonus points for creative titling–in case you can’t read it, the title is Made a Machete Out Of Cardboard When Studying The Rise Of Fascism In Italy–but at ten years of age, Krystlee is old enough to be creating bladed weapons with actual edges. That axe–pardon me, “machete,” is going to be useless when the inevitable zombie outbreak comes to Alameda.

Then there was Ann Call’s contribution.
It was supposed to be 100% angora, but let’s face it, cat hair gets into everything

Speaking of Angora–and other–rabbits,

I thought this guy’s tiger stripes were impressive.

But then I saw the racing stripe this critter was sporting.

Big kudos to this one for breaking new ground in the monochrome look.

All in all, the rabbits did a much better job of self-decorating than the sheep. Yeah, the latter were darn stylin’.
But those are nylon bodysuits. Despite the advances technology has brought to modern agriculture, nobody’s figured out a way for sheep to grow non-wool fleece.

Not interested in the critters? Don’t miss the model railroad exhibit–and look closely. There are several jokes hidden around the landscapes.

And, of course, there’s the food.

This year, we didn’t have any true “fair food”. There were plenty of options in that category–things you can only get fairs, mostly involving batter, deep-frying, and sticks (and bacon–lots and lots and lots of bacon, wrapped around things that should never be within a county mile of bacon)

We stuck with slightly less locale-specific choices: fried pickle chips, barbequed tri-tip sandwiches, lemonade. And, yes, strawberry shortcake. Sure, you can get them elsewhere, but they’re still solidly in the fair tradition.

And then I got back on my diet by skipping breakfast the next day. Lunch, dinner, and the following morning’s breakfast too.

In short, we had a good time, even with the hundred-degree-plus temperature in Pleasanton.

Next year? We’re not sure yet. If we only do one fair, we might try the Contra Costa County Fair. It’s our “local” fair, so we ought to check it out, and it’s early enough in the summer that if we’re disappointed, we can still catch the Solano or Alameda fair.

2 thoughts on “Fair Enough

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