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“She dresses in as little as possible and loves running slow, as if she is running by the beach. Please welcome Hamela Anderson!” The crowd roared as a tall man in a straw hat announced the fourth runner of the All-Alaskan Racing Pigs at the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton on Thursday.
More than two years after the last full summer fair, Alameda County Fairgrounds is once again up and running with rides, food, animals, wine-tasting and, this year, pumpkins. The popular East Bay county fair, which usually takes place mid-summer, started a bit later this year, on Oct. 22, at its regular Pleasanton locale; it runs through Sunday.
After being postponed again this year due to COVID-19, the fair made a comeback in time to celebrate the Halloween spirit with screenings of Halloween-themed movies, pumpkin carvings, stores selling spooky merchandise and more.
Complying with Alameda County’s indoor-mask regulations, fairgoers of ages 2 and older are mandated to wear face coverings indoors at the fair.
“We are really excited to be here at the fair for the baby, because it’s her first time being at a fair,” said Donna Heilmann, talking about her 18-month-old granddaughter. Heilmann, a Fremont resident, visited the fair with her sister, daughter and two granddaughters — 18 months and 8 months each. “She is still a little too young for the rides, but she just likes her big eyes soaking everything up.”
The fair took off on Friday of last week but was briefly interrupted by the atmospheric river that drenched the Bay Area, canceling last Sunday’s events. However, the organizers stated that the tickets bought for Oct. 24 could be used any day in the following week, with significant events such as the wine-tasting competition rescheduled for this weekend.
Sarah McNeill, a Livermore resident, brought her 1-year-old daughter, Willow, to the fair for the first time. “I have visited this fair my whole life, and [my family] would come out here every year at least once,” McNeill said. She took her daughter to her favorite area at the fair — the petting zoo. “Willow loved the petting zoo,” McNeill shared. Her mother chimed in, “And the piggy race too!”
While the fair attracted visitors with its buzzed-about rides, petting zoo and Halloween treats, the vendors experienced slower-than-normal business.
Richard Yu, a first-time vendor at the county fair, said, “With the storm on Sunday, it was a little slow during the weekend, but it slowly started picking up after.” The sock-business owner, who has also sold at other fairs such as the Fresno County Fair this year, felt that the business was not as good as before the COVID-19 pandemic, with fewer people attending the fairs now. “It is also understandable,” he said.
Yu wants to return to the fair next year in hopes of doing more business. “This year’s fair is for 10 days, but normally, it runs for [multiple] weeks. So I’m looking forward to coming back next year; I’m pretty sure I can do better next year.”
The Alameda County Fair runs 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. this weekend at the Alameda County Fairgrounds, 4501 Pleasanton Ave., Pleasanton. Masks are required for guests ages 2 and up in all indoor spaces. Admission is $15-$18, with additional fees for parking and rides. For more information, visit annual.alamedacountyfair.com.