PLEASANTON — As of 11:10 a.m., a mere 10 minutes after the 100th Annual Alameda County Fair opened its gates, it was already running like a well-cotton candied machine.
The rides were shiny and clean, pigs were fed and ready to race, and all manner of deep-fried foods were pre-emptively causing heart attacks.
Before the end of the fair's 17-day run, there will have been three fireworks shows, a downtown parade, a kissing contest, horse races, kids getting thrown off of sheep (on purpose) and people losing their dinner while on carnival rides (not on purpose).
Last year, more than 450,000 people attended — an 8 percent increase over the previous year's 418,000, despite a sagging economy. The same or more are expected this year.
Also, get ready to have that heart attack: last year, patrons ate 91,414 corn dogs and 29,834 funnel cakes. They slurped 14,963 snow-cones, gnawed on 7,559 turkey legs, choked down 1,546 novelty scorpions and ate nearly 500 pounds of alligator meat. Dessert lovers ate 5,297 cinnamon rolls and 3,791 deep-fried Oreo cookies.
If you want to go the healthy route, however, you can. "Fresh Fruit Smoothies," for example, is at the fair again this year selling signature strawberry smoothies (strawberries and water, basically. Super refreshing).
But if you have been saving up those calories, you won't be disappointed.
There is standard fare like meatball subs, rootbeer floats, funnel cake with caramel slathered all over, foot-long corndogs, burgers, and bricks of steaming curly fries as big as your head.
Also, Sweet Cheeks, a food vendor featured on the Travel Channel, is there this year, offering the following: deep-fried Twinkies and Snickers, deep-fried cheesecake, deep-fried Cap'n Crunch, deep-fried Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, deep-fried pudding, deep-fried red velvet cake, deep-fried cinnamon rolls, etc.
The only thing missing is the deep-fried insulin (thanks to for that one).
On opening day, I had the deep-fried cheesecake, which pairs nicely with a strawberry margarita — the perfect diabetes-incuding combo. I meant to take a photo, but I accidentally ate it all before I had the chance.
After you eat, you'll try to keep it all down while on the rides. They're what you'd expect: The Fire Ball, Gravitron, the Evolution bullet, Flying Bobs whirly cars, the Zillerator roller coaster and of course all the games. The childrens' rides are in a whole seprate area of the fair, which is good if you're trying to keep your little one calm, and don't want to battle all the ride-crazy teenagers.
Also back this year are the Alaskan Pig races, where fuzzy little bodies run around a track in a riot of oinking and pink skin. Children pick the one they want to root for, and scream their favorite's name during the race.
These baby pigs race for only six months and then retire, so they're all pretty high-energy, being so young. After the races, kids can get their pictures taken with the pigs, who amazingly, sit still long enough for the flash to go off.
These are at 1:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m., and 8 p.m. For other activities, click on the daily schedule.
Oh but there is some disappointing news. Contrary to earlier reports, there Jungle George's will not be at the fair this year — this means no yak burgers, no python meat, no chocolate-covered ants.
But there does seem to be more food variety than ever, so hopefully you can find something to satisfy that adventure jones.
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