Almost the minute the Alameda County Fair closed July 10 after its 17-day run, the weather turned cold.
The sticky, 95-degree temperatures that lend a feeling of legitimacy to days spent inhaling funnel cakes and whipping around on rides were gone, and on July 11, the 267-acre grounds off Bernal Road were empty and quiet, as if nothing had happened.
But it had. According to fair organizers, the 99th annual Alameda County Fair was busier this year than it has been in 20 years, despite a sagging economy.
More than 450,000 people attended this year's fair, an 8 percent increase over last year's 418,000. The previous record was set in 2009 with 435,000 attending.
Most of the vendors moved to the Orange County Fair, which opens Friday or the state fair, which opens Thursday.
"It's amazing how empty the grounds were when I came in on Monday morning," said April Mitchell, fair spokesperson.
Fair organizers said in a news release that new attractions could've helped boost the numbers — including the cooking and eating of the world's largest burger (777 pounds), the BBQ County Corral and free concerts by acts such as the Charlie Daniels Band, Blue Oyster Cult and Tracy Lawrence.
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.
CEO Rick Pickering said that by not holding live horse races on Wednesdays, the fair was able to provide larger fields of horses Thursdays through Sundays, resulting in a 9 percent increase in average daily wagers, bucking the national trend of double-digit decreases.
Though exhibitor sales went down almost 1 percent, other sales were up — small animal sales were up 17 percent, with people spending $29,484. The Junior Livestock Auction raised $567,231, up 12 percent from last year.
The fair's promotions — 99-cent Wednesdays, a 99-cent carnival ride day and 99-cent bites of the world's largest hamburger — yielded $15,000 for the Alameda County Community Food Bank. Also, fair patrons donated 26,230 pounds of food to the bank during a one-day canned food drive.
A complete list of competitive entry winners will be posted on the fair's website by the end of the month.