SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY FAIR
• THEME: Celebrating 150 Years of Good Times
• LOCATION: San Joaquin County fairgrounds, 1658 S. Airport Way, Stockton
• WHEN: Daily through Sunday
• HOURS: Noon to 10 p.m.
• ADVANCE TICKETS: Adults $6, children $3
• REGULAR ADMISSION: Adults $9; children $5 (kids age 5 and under are free)
• PARKING: $5
• CONCERTS / 8 P.M. START TIME: Sawyer Brown (June 17), Kool & the Gang (June 18), Tower of Power (June 19), Lupillo Rivera (June 20)
• HORSE RACING: Daily through June 20
• INFORMATION: Phone 209-466-5739 or go to www.sanjoaquinfair.com
They got in through the entrance gate just as the swell of humanity showed up which was right after six o’clock when many are just coming off work.
Many of the older adults gravitated toward the entertainment stage and the community stage. Young families pushing their toddlers in strollers while tightly clutching the hands of their trotting young ones headed straight to the kiddie carnivals. Giggling and laughing young teen-agers strolled through the food alleys.
For the Perrys, of George Perry & Sons in Manteca, the main reason for their night out was to catch Kool & the Gang’s performance on the Main Stage. But it was obvious they were also there to gauge this year’s fair – from the attendance and overall ambiance to the apparent reactions of visitors to the various attractions that make up the bill of fare.
They have every reason to be extremely interested in the success of the county fair. George Perry & Sons, the four-generation agricultural business that put Manteca on the map for its watermelon- and pumpkin-growing interests and ventures, is right at the heart of the reason for the fair’s existence – to showcase and highlight the vital role that agriculture plays in the socio-economic development of San Joaquin County. So the Perry family’s decades’-long involvement in agriculture has been part of the rich history of the fair.
Even more important, though, is the fact Art Perry is a member of the San Joaquin County Fair’s 2010 Board of Directors.
The dwindling fair attendance and the shortened time for the various events – from two weeks in the past to just five days this year, starting on Wednesday, June 16, and ending this Sunday, June 20 – are not lost on a lot of people but more acutely by those who are directly affected by these drastic changes such as the livestock shows and horse racing, and especially the directors of the board.
The Perrys remember the heydays of the fair as recently as the 1990s and the early part of this decade when the many attractions included agricultural booths highlighting the major products of each city in the county.
“We want to turn this fair around. We want to bring it back to being a community and family affair,” Art Perry said.
On Friday, Perry and his wife saw plenty of reasons to feel optimistic and hopeful for better fair days to come. Diane noted how there have been “a lot of improvement” this year such as the “nicer environment.
“I like the fair this year. It feels clean and safe, and there are a lot of families,” she added.
She hopes that all these positive things are going to entice people to come to the fair and enjoy the many attractions, activities and programs with their family and friends.
The Perrys said they want to see the fair as “a place where you want to relax, enjoy and visit with people and the family.”
They also want it to be a “safe environment” for everybody.
To help promote that, safety measures are already in place at the entrance gate. Where visitors present their tickets, visitors are subjected to something that is akin to what is happening at airports. Security employees run handheld electronic devices through each visitor which helps check for weapons, or if they have bulky bags or backpacks, they are asked to open them so they can be subjected to visual scans.
Despite the long lines and long wait Friday evening, visitors were very well behaved and waited patiently for their turn to pass through the gates.