California State Fair
Well, we made it to the California State Fair! We arrived close to the end of their 17 Day run (July 13th-29th). Much to our surprise, the weather was unconditionally hot, close to a stifling 100 degrees. Despite the weather, California State Fair CEO, Rick Pickering and his staff were extremely accommodating. Their theme this year was “Don’t Miss a Moment” and we were determined to do just that.
After spending a couple of hours meeting with Rick and his executive assistant Sue, we took off in hopes to “not miss a moment”. The grounds are well taken care of and absolutely beautiful! I have to admit, I was a bit jealous of the 800 acres they have. The fairgrounds are conveniently nestled amongst the lush grapes of Napa Valley, you can just imagine the aroma of that area and how delicately situated the vines are amidst the shade. It is truly a site to see.
The night before we arrived they sponsored an exciting event which was a first for them. They were eager to see how well it would be received and so were we! The event was their first ever CSF Mariachi Competition. Ten ensembles throughout the state were invited to compete ranging from 1st graders to college students. Judges represented some of the most accomplished Mariachi talent in California including, celebrity judge, Anthony Gonzalez, the voice behind Miguel in Disney’s Coco. They had an outstanding turn out and left a great memory for hundreds of folks who attended. It certainly goes without saying, they are looking forward to next year.
After a couple of hours of touring the grounds, we came back to the administrative building to meet with each of their department supervisors. Each area leader gave us an overview of how they operate and took questions. Most of us were taking notes and thinking of ways we could incorporate some of those ideas at our event. One of the things I found so interesting, having a background in law enforcement, they are the only fair they knew of that has their own Chief of Police appointed by state statue. Chief Robillard met with us for quite some time talking about the overall security and safety of their guests. We discussed their cannabis and drone policies and how they monitor these relatively new concepts. We also spoke about ways to improve printed and posted code of conduct information. It was extremely insightful and informative.
Some other interesting events of the fair was the CSF Corn Hole Championship. They also had a Silent Disco! This was a very cool spot. Literally, a very cool spot! Guests could take a break from the heat, put on headphones and listen to their favorite music while cooling off from the refreshing cool mist fan shaded area. What a great way to offer some relaxation during a hot summer day at the fair!
The carnival area (Buther Amusement) was clean and well-spaced out, but we really didn’t have much time to tour that area. However, we did spend plenty of time in the vendors hall which were well-ventilated and air conditioned (thank you). We also got to see the horses and many fruit and vegetable displays.
Our first evening we were treated to a reception dinner and a concert featuring Sugar Ray. We learned early on in our trip, the weather quickly drops when the sun goes down. Rick (CEO) and his staff mingled with all of the visitors in the area and made the experience quite eventful.
On the second day, several of us went back to the fairgrounds and met with Sarah Cummings who is the Executive Director of the Western Fair Association. She brought along her staff and we visited for a couple of hours. Lisa and Sarah got to talk about their associations and ways to help each other. They spoke about their active involvement with the IAFE and of course we had to brag about our very own IAFE Chair Rick Vymlatil. We left the meeting thinking, wow, how great is our industry? ! Where else can you can meet and talk with folks who really understand the business and go out of their way to help out other fairs?! Fine group of folks out there.
We then got to spend a little down time and take in some of the sights outside the fair grounds. Some of us went to San Francisco or Lake Tahoe while others took in the sites around Sacramento. We left the fair just after lunch and the weather was around 100 degrees. Eighty or so miles later in San Francisco, it was a cool 60 degrees. Needless to say, we froze. We visited Alcatraz, took a trolley ride through the city, admired the Golden Gate Bridge and perused Fisherman’s Warf. The sites were sure something to see and we could have spent a lot more time exploring however, what we did get to see was great!
The next morning, while we were boarding the plane, as I was singing my good luck anthem, Carrie Underwood’s, “Jesus Take the Wheel” (did I mention I hate flying,) I reflected back on all the wonderful “moments” we made during our trip to the CSF. According to recent reports, the California State Fair had 572, 250 visitors in attendance this year. The nine days of extreme heat attributed to a bit of a decline in attendance this year as we can vouch for that. Overall, they did a fantastic job trying to keep their visitors safe and cool with all that planning. It was a pleasure spending time with a group of professional leaders who enjoy what they do and are without a doubt at the top of their game.