Don't be fooled by all the fun and games: Fairs are big business in California. According to the Western Fair Assn. in Sacramento, fairs are the state's 47th largest industry and generate more than $60 million worth of sales tax revenue for state and local agencies.
In all, 81 fairs are held each year in 54 of the state's 58 counties. (Alpine, Mono, Sierra and Alpine counties are not home to any fairs.)
The Los Angeles County fair is by far the largest, attracting about 1.4 million visitors last year. Not even close behind in second place is the San Diego County Fair at Del Mar, which had slightly more than 1 million visitors this summer. They are followed, in order, by the Santa Clara County Fair, the California State Fair and the Orange County Fair.
Nationwide, the largest fair of any kind last year was the Ohio State Fair, which attracted 3.3 million visitors. Texas was in second place with 2.9 million visitors. In 1985, the last recorded census, fairs nationwide attracted 158 million visitors.
Although no documentation exists, the first state fair is believed to have been held in the early 1800s.
Traditionally, community fairs have been a great place to exhibit new products and technologies as well as prize pigs and heifers. Among those items first unveiled at a county fair are: Ford Motor Co.'s Edsel, the light bulb and the phonograph.
What's a fair without a queen? Plenty, the Los Angeles County Fair sponsors decreed about 10 years ago when they decided that the annual beauty contest was not in keeping with "the changing times." Still, plenty of other fairs stick with tradition.
The Yolo County Fair is home court to the Sugar Beet Queen. And Queen Scheherazade, complete with her two-piece, navel-baring belly dancer get-up, presides over the National Date Festival held annually in Riverside County.
But few regal misses have it over Princess Kay of the Milky Way, who is crowned each year at the Minnesota State Fair. Part of the prize for the princess and her court of six maidens is an opportunity to spend the day in a 38-degree, glass-walled refrigerator posing for a sculptor who carves each of their likenesses in a 100-pound slab of butter.
They're back!! Yes, those ever popular pig races--that's right, your eyes do not deceive--are off and running again this year at the Los Angeles County Fair. Called the "Rapid Razorback" event, the race features "road hogs" speeding around a miniature track. Races are held several times a day. Pari-mutuel betting is not allowed.
The 62nd Los Angeles County Fair runs through Oct. 1 at the fairgrounds in Pomona. The grounds are about 2 miles north of Interstate 10 and can be reached from either the Ganesha or Garey exits. Hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays; 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturdays and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays. Admission is $7 for adults, $5.50 for adults over age 60 and $4 for children aged 6 to 12. Children under 6 are admitted free. Parking is $3 general, $5 for preferred and $8 for valet.