Thursday, August 14, 2014

Ranking the Nine Bay Area County Fairs - All 9 of Them - Which is Your Favorite?

Ranking the Nine Bay Area County Fairs - All 9 of Them - Which is Your Favorite?

Now that we're deep into the Fair and Festival Summer Season, we thought it might be of interest to review some of the fairs.    If we were to include all the Bay Area Fairs and Festivals there would be  far too many, so we thought we'd just go with the Grandaddy of Fairs, the County Fair - and the San Francisco Bay Area boasts nine of them - and they all have  distinct personalities.Most of the fairs are over now but it's still fun to look back- and you can save this guide, bookmark website for next year. Meanwhile, some of these classic fairgrounds have other entertainment/events during the year. Horseracing has dissappeared from some of the fairs, with only Alameda, Napa and Sacramento still offering horseracing, to our knowledge. Find bay area concerts, alameda county
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County Fairs evolved out of farming, when farming was large part of  the scene. Now farms are almost non-existant in the Bay Area as land values boom and housing has replaced them. Kids joined 4H clubs and would enter animals or projects and win awards.  This still goes on at most of the Bay Area Fairs, but one county, San Francisco, seems to have even discontinued it's 'urban' fair that ran up until a few years ago. County of fairs of today have become more commercial. Gone are many of the old farming exhibits, for which the fairs were originally designed around.   It seems more about attracting bodies than family fun anymore.  Gone, too, are the family-oriented , oldies concerts as newer  fair committees seem to be going after the supposed 'affluent' younger demographics. It might be working, with attendance seeming to be up, but seeming to sacrifice that old nostalgic 'feel'of the county fair.  

Now, with the digital age, too, county fairs may seem passe' for some, though others have tried to adapt to the times, with digital programs - though it just doesn't seem to fit the old county fair 'down home' tradtion.
For this reason, we will give our unofficial Top Bay Area County Fair to probably the most traditional one,
that has kept true to the county fair tradion. Read On...
Contra Costa County Fair
May 30-June 2
1201 W. 10th St.
Antioch, CA 94509

Poor little Contra Costa Fair.Though the grounds seem pretty original and feature a monument  dedicated to President Kennedy in 1963, the fair only runs three days and that's probably because there's just not much there.  No horse raising no big name concerts, no gardens, just a single row of exhibits and foods  and a small mid-way. This year the fair ran the first weekend of June and did feature a roller derby exhibition and an Aerosmith tribute band.   Perhaps the CC Fair isn't so popular since the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton is bigger and closer to many residents of Contra Costa! No horseracing
Santa Clara County Fair
August 1-4
Santa Clara County Fairgounds
344 Tully Rd.
San Jose, CA 95111
Only a weekend,smallish fair for this large, wealthy county.Includes   livestock, a carnival, shopping,entertainment.   Had some great entertainment in the past, . Remembering the great Freddy Fender and Righteous Brothers (they went way over time with a half hour 'doowop' encore many years ago, but seems to have deteriorated along with many of the other fairs  Not much to say about the grounds and abmience. It may be older but largely asphalt and  not notable.  Again, this county with the big city of San Jose deserves better.
San Mateo County Fair
June 8-16
San Mateo County Fairgrounds
1346 Saratoga Ave
San Mateo, CA 94403
Features  live music, livestockeducation, famous fair food & drink and all the Fair flair you’ve come to expect from the San Mateo County Fair! See the pig races, a variety of entertainment, a horse show, a kids train, and all of your county fair favorites.
Adults: $10, youth 6 to 12: $8, Seniors 62 and over: $8, kids 5 and under: free. Parking $10.
San Mateo County Fair is only slightly better than Santa Clara.  We'd expect better for one of the wealthiest counties in the state.Some name entertainment over the years. Ambiance and grounds are decent but it pretty much looks and acts like  a 'city fair.' 

Sonoma-Marin Fair
June 19-23
4th District Agricultural Association
175 Fairgrounds Drive
Petaluma, CA. 94952
One of the North Bay’s favorite summer events, this year featured Diaper Derby, pig races, hugely popular Ugliest Dog Contest, Destruction Derby, Hypnotist Chris Mabrey, and free carnival rides. And rockin’ artists like Loverboy and Kellie Pickler are performing on the main stage. The carnival is free with admission.
Adults 13 and over: $15, kids 4-12: $10, kids 3 and under are free.
The one fair we haven't been to lately. Petaluma personifies 'county fair' with its 'American Graffiti' history - used as backdrop for the movie- but when we were there last a few years back it was nothing special. Overpriced at $15.

Marin County Fair
July 3-7
410 Avenue of the Flags
San Rafael, CA 94903
Along with traditional Fair favorites (thrilling carnival rides, delicious food, loveable farm animals and spectacular fireworks), the Marin County Fair is known as “The Greenest Fair on Earth.” The environmentally conscious Marin County combines the red, white and blue of America’s history with the green of American’s future in sustainability by integrating environmental stewardship at the Fair. One price includes all concerts (Weird Al Yankovic, Eddie Money, and more), fireworks nightly, and attractions and rides. Nightly fireworks at 9:30pm.
Adults: $16, Seniors and kids 12 and under: $14
It may be the greenest fair, but it is also an 'asphalt jungle'.  The only good thing about it is the lagoon water backdrop and some decent entertainment including real 'roots'fair music.We've seen Chubby Checker, the Rick Nelson boys, the Wailers, Preservation hall band among others, but thiis fair looks much to much like a city festivall trying to act like a county fair, despite, the beautiful 1950s  Frank Lloyd Wright-designed county offices nearby
Napa County Fair
July 3-7
1435 North Oak Street
Calistoga, CA 94515
Fireworks, karaoke, pony rides, a 4th of July parade and an olive oil competition (this IS Napa after all) are all part of this wine country favorite fair. You won’t want to miss the BBQ competition and a myriad of kid-friendly activities, not to mention an awesome display of antique tractors.
Adults: $10, youth 7 to 12: $5, kids under 6: free. Parking $5.

One of the  few 'original'fairgournds, or, at least, the old style.  Fine ambiance in this tree-lined setting in old Calistoga. 
It's only a long weekend fair but  but has a nice fireworks display and we've seen some good small scale oldies groups perform
at the original race track grandstand.
California State Fair
July 12–28
1600 Exposition Blvd
Sacramento, CA 95815
County Fair too small potatoes for you? Then head east and visit the California State Fair. The seventeen-day fair is a robust celebration of the State of California, its industries, agriculture and diversity of its people. Every summer the State Fair is all about BIG FUN, providing entertainment and education to inspire the young and young at heart! Performers include En Vogue, LeAnn Rimes, “Weird Al” Yankovic, and so much more. Online purchasing is your best bet for a deal
Adults: $10, youth 5 to 12: $8, kids 4 and under: free. Parking $8.

The Grand Daddy - but not necessarily the best - of Bay Area  and State fairs.  Really outside the Bay Area but worth the short hour plus drive from San Francisco. The CA State Fair has everything, including horse racing, big name entertainment, acres of exhibits, games and midway and lots of food stands.  It   is the largest fair in area but doesn't have a band stand like Alameda or Solano.  We've seen some good old family acts like Wierd Al and Lou Christie and Little Anthony but the entertainment of late has been directed more at the teen and twenties market, rather than families

Alameda County Fair
June 19–July 7 (closed Mondays)
Alameda County Fairgrounds
Pleasanton, CA 94566
$10 admission

For years, this was THE fair in the Bay Area, in our opinion. It's one of the oldest - having celebrated it's 100th anniversary-  still has perhaps the most beautiful grounds of any,  with
acres of tall and shade trees and lawns, many exhibit buildings and it's own  amphitheater for concerts (it seats around 1,000 people) .  Top name entertainers have graced its stage over the fair's long history,
names such as Johnny Cash, Rick Nelson, Brenda Lee,  Pat Boone, Annette and Frankie, The Platters, Eddie Rabbit, Freddy Fender, Marty Robbins, Bo Diddley, Neil Sedaka and comedians such as George Kirby, Pat Paulson, Smothers Brothers,  Paul Rodriquez and Paula Poundstone.
Unlike other fairs, the concerts have always been included free with fair admission. There used to be
two shows a night. which was also different from most fairs, but that changed with a lot of other things
with new management in recent years.  Much of the family-friendly entertainment seems to have given way to teen attract the teen market; gone are the great 'oldies's shows like Donnie Brooks' Cavalcade of Stars (Tiny Tim, Al Wilson, Pat Upton of Spiral Staircase, Cannibal and the Headhunters, etc)  in favor of newer acts catering to a younger crowd.  A large televised screen has been added for over-flow crowds. The fair also features several other nice performing venues including a beautiful wine garden near an equally beautiful garden display, where fine bluesman Terry Hanks and his    group  have held for nightly for the past decade, at least.  The new fair has taken advantage of modern social media, plus an apparent large ad budget to attract large crowds - almost too large, in our opinion. For this and that the fair has gotten away from the original intent of the county fair, we have gone with the following as our No. 1 Favorite Fair this year....

The Winner:
Solano County Fair
July 31-August 4
900 Fairgrounds Dr.
Vallejo, CA 94589
  Fair the only to feature nightly fireworks. It still has  free concerts - and the only offering truly family fair, this year featuring 50s and 60s acts like LIttle Anthony, Guess Who and Temptations. The Solano County Fair is a show-stopper! With livestock auctions, the Solano Community Showcase Talent Show, Blue Ribbon Competitions and a family-friendly, traditional county fair-vibe, Solano County Fair is an easy choice for a summer adventure.

It's not the biggest and it's not the newest. It no longer has a race track and it only runs a week.  In fact, it's got a lot of rough edges, as one of the older fairgrounds, built in 1950. But these are things that gives this fair the old 'county fair charm'  many of the others, like Alameda, have lost. Solano is very family-friendly, despite it's inner-city location and has a nice mix of attendees of all ages and ethnic groups;  it wasn't over-crowed as some of the fairs this year. It also features a nice mix of entertainment, perhaps the only venue dipping back into the family-friendly oldies acts, this year featuring Little Anthony and the Imperials and the Guess Who on its huge stage/concert grandstand area with excellent sound.  The setting is right out of the Fifties, with pastoral lands ala Alameda Fair and  nary a change in those 64 years.  The fair which ran the last week of July, even featured a vintage car show, an exhibit on the history of state parks and had an excellent fireworks display, despite the fair's smaller stature.  It may not truly deserve the No. 1 Bay Area County Fair ranking but we want to go with it in what may be the fair's last year in it's original habitat as talks are  underway to renovate the fairgrounds. MORE from this year's show including Little Anthony performing

This fair is what a county fair should be like. Kudos to Solano County Fair for maintaining the originality of fairs you don't see  much anymore. The fair is right out of the Golden Era of the 1950s when county fairs had their heyday. We're sorry to hear theis may change next year with renovation. But , enjoy the grounds or other events at this fine fairground while you can. 

Solano Fair,true to its '50s roots, features a vintage car show.Can you name this car?

Cruisin'the main 

Beautiful grounds right out of 1950

Even the grandstand where Little Anthonoy appeared  is right out of 1950 in pastel blue

How's this beautiful twilight shot from the Grandstand 7-31-14

\'There's  A Moono Out tonight' - wiht the Great Little Anthony and the Imperials in Vallejo

How about some live , 2-D action, revisiting that special night with Littlel Anthony in Vallego 7-31-14

Hope you've enjoyed this little trip down memory lanes.  A few other  county fairs just outside the San Francisco Bay Area include Stantislaus (Turlock), Mariposa, Madera and Monterey, of lesser note. California has a number of other notable fairs including the Mid-State Fair near Paso Robles, the Los Angeles County Fair, San Diego Fair, Orange County Fair. One of the great county fairs we've been to outside California is the Eerie County Fair in New York, but our local Bay Area fairs rank right there near the top. 

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Friday, August 1, 2014

Recommended Books, Careers in Economics, Economy News

Best Economics Books- Timely Biography in Wake of Russia -Ukraine Crisis

Berkeley Economics Professor's Rags To Riches Story, From Russia to the Golden Gate

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*****   5 stars

Book Review:

Crises and Compassion: From Russia to the Golden Gate (Footprints Series)

Bay Area and Berkeley's own John M. Letiche, now in his mid-90s, started life as Ianik Letichevsky, a citizen of the newly constituted Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The son of a brilliant but dictatorial father and a loving, cultivated mother, he went on to a remarkable career as an accomplished scholar, professor of economics, and adviser to governments.

Letiche, now in his nineties, provides an intriguing look at the changes that have occurred during his lifetime.

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***** 5 stars
Can't Put It Down
By clairevdd
Dr. Letiche provides adventure and thorough analysis of the time in which he lived. His early years in Russia and then in Canada are fascinating for a view of how people were coping with uncertainty and instability in the world. One is drawn into the thinking of a very sensitive child who shows wisdom beyond his years. Of course, the fact that he ended up teaching Economics at UC Berkeley during the sixties makes him seem one of us westerners. He brings a great sense of balance in his evaluation of many African heads of state during a grueling, sometimes dangerous working tour of the country. He showed insight and balance in his analysis of the behavior of the Chancellor of the University during the turbulence of the Free Speech Movement. Guns in Africa, tear gas in Berkeley; there is plenty of action.Dr. Letiche shows generosity of spirit in revealing his personal foibles and skillfully emphasizes the traits that form his own philosophy. What better way to get to know this extraordinary man, other than knocking on his door and having a good listen in conversation with him.

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