RESIDENTS AND REVELERS trooped into San Joaquin County Fairgrounds over the weekend to relish and celebrate the three-day revival of a summer fair that reaches back 163 years.

The fair returned to Stockton last year after being canceled in 2020 and 2021 because of the COVID pandemic. Daniel Castillo, the fair’s chief executive officer, said the aim is to help local businesses emerge from such challenges.

Jeremy the Juggler entertains the line of people waiting to get into the San Joaquin County Fair. (Ray Saint Germain/Bay City News)

“We’re trying to highlight the key pieces of our communities and ensure they have a platform,” Castillo said. “That’s what this is supposed to be — a showcase of the greatest parts of our county.”

A ribbon cutting kicked off the fair Friday morning. Castillo and members of the San Joaquin County fair board read messages of congratulation from state Sen. Susan Talamantes Eggman and state Assemblymember Carlos Villapudua.

“Today marks the continued and renewed effort to ensure residents of San Joaquin County may long enjoy local events” at the fairgrounds, Eggman wrote.

“Let’s start the fair,” said B. Troy Bowers, the ribbon cutter and president of the fair’s board of directors, as the white ribbon broke with a resounding snap in front of a crowd of early fairgoers.

While the beginnings of the fair predate the Civil War, Bowers said this year marks the beginning of a new era.

“There have been so many tough times — fires burn down the grandstand one time, then COVID, a lot of challenges,” he said. “But this fair survives. It remains strong.

“I feel like we are like the phoenix coming out of the ashes.”

Vendors lined a main walkway of the fair, including Lit Lemons, a fresh lemonade stand owned by Sacramento-based Antwuan Flemons.

Flemons beamed as he welcomed patrons to his stand and supervised three teenagers slicing and squeezing fruit for 32-ounce drinks.

Flemons said he employs local youths to “give them something positive to do.”
“This is not only to help the kids but just to get them productive,” he said.

(L-R) Mary and Richard Calderon tend to the Stockton Lapidary and Mineral Club booth at the San Joaquin County Fair at the fairgrounds in Stockton, Calif., on June 2, 2023. (Ray Saint Germain/Bay City News)

Forming connections with young people is also at the heart of the 84-year-old Stockton Lapidary and Mineral Club, located two tents down from Lit Lemon. The club, dedicated to turning rocks into jewelry, holds workshops at schools across the county.

Young club members enticed fairgoers to fill plastic bags with rocks for a dollar, an opportunity to fundraise and gain visibility.

Lydia Sidhom is a rising third-year at UC Berkeley studying Data Science and Political Science. She is a Dow Jones News Fund intern for Bay City News. Lydia was a lead beat reporter, deputy news editor and projects developer for The Daily Californian and will be a deputy projects editor there this fall. She enjoys telling stories through data. In her free time, Lydia loves to read, bake and travel. 

Charles is a Knight Foundation intern at Bay City News and a Master of Journalist candidate at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. He freelanced for Oakland Side and Oakland North on race, equity, and health outcomes in the Bay Area. Before his graduate studies, Charles worked as a Business reporter in Ghana, West Africa, covering financial markets and rising startups. At Bay City News, he is interested in reporting on public health and the intersections of race and equity in the Bay Area.