California Fairs Posting Strong Numbers

San Joaquin and Alameda counties got circuit off to a strong start this summer.

County fairs at San Joaquin and Alameda got the Northern California summer circuit off to a good start with strong growth over corresponding meets a year ago despite racing fewer dates.

At the San Joaquin County Fair, free admission was offered for the first time, and the community showed up in a big way. The on-track handle was up 16% over 2010, while the all-sources handle, including satellite, out-of-state, and advance deposit wagering, jumped 15%. Officials were especially pleased with the numbers since there was one less day of racing in 2011 (four this year versus five in 2010).

“Our board of directors made a decision to go with free admission and it worked,” said San Joaquin Fair Board chairman James Jimenez. “People told us they hadn’t seen crowds like this in years.”

"The fans responded," said Christopher Korby, executive director of the California Authority of Racing Fairs. "We allocated funds to upgrade the facility and are extremely satisfied to see the support from the communities surrounding Stockton. Our plan for next year is to work with the San Joaquin County Fair and the California Horse Racing Board to move their racing schedule to a two-week harvest fair in late September."

Upgrades to the San Joaquin racetrack facility included a completely remodeled and expanded winner's circle.

At the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton, two days were cut from the racing schedule (down from 15 race dates in 2010), yet fans broke the all-time attendance record set in 2009. Handle also soared. Average daily all-sources and on-track handle grew 18%, while satellite wagering grew 17.5%. Despite racing two fewer days this year, total handle numbers still increased over 2010.

“We want to thank the almost half-million guests who came to our fair this year,” said Alameda County Fair CEO Rick Pickering. “We work hard to provide affordable local entertainment for our communities and we’re honored that so many people chose to invest their time and money with family and friends at our fair this summer.”

"The Alameda County Fair is one of the largest fairs in the country and we always have high expectations for that meet,” said Korby. "Racing numbers are showing a nice turn-around at the fairs so far this summer. With the economic issues affecting everyone in the region, it is especially gratifying to see so many families enjoying themselves at the races in Pleasanton."

The California State Fair in Sacramento runs through July 24. It is followed on the circuit by the Sonoma County Fair in Santa Rosa and the Humboldt County Fair in Ferndale. The Big Fresno Fair concludes the 2011 Northern California Fair Circuit in October.