November 24, 2017

Lowlights of my State Fair experience

I went to the California State Fair yesterday with high hopes.  I had visions of Fair fun like in the “Charlotte’s Web” movie. Bring on the pigs and blue ribbons, pie eating contests and quartets singing and playing brass instruments in seersucker suits.


Reality seemed to be working in our favor too. There was a low 90 degree weather forecast for the day’s high and it was “kids get in free Tuesday,” not to mention all carnival rides were 1 ticket each (instead of 3-5 on days other than Tuesday).  My adventuresome parents planned to come meet us there from the Bay Area.  Everyone was healthy, happy and excited.


The kids and I walked through the gates at high noon, opening time.  It was already hot, feeling like 90 already, but there were hardly any other people there.  We ran up to the rides and rode a few in quick succession.  Then I got the big idea to go as far into the Fair as possible and then work our way outwards before the crowds came. So, we made our way deeper into the Fair when the kids were perfectly happy where we were. Mistake #1


We went to the animal section.  There were a lot of goats and cows, but no pigs and no contests to be seen.


I put my cell phone in my pocket so that I could feel when my parents would call. After they did, I shuffled it back and forth between my pocket and my bag the rest of the day.  Mistake #2


My son tripped and fell, bloodying his knee. My 3-year-old and I got matching elbow road burns going down some crazy slide at the end of the House of Mirrors.


And despite my slathering of sunscreen, that old sun snuck in and scalded me right where I least expected- right where my ponytail betrayed me, my entire neck. Ponytail= Mistake #3


Next thing I knew, I didn’t have my phone I’d just gotten 2 months ago. I searched high. I searched low.  I went to Lost & Found, where a very nice man assured me people turn in full purses with wallets, keys and cell phones all the time.


I pleaded with my bag and must’ve searched it a thousand times. I texted my lost phone from my Dad’s phone, sweetly offering a $50 reward. “I’m still at the Fair!” I begged.


And later, when relaying the story and how I couldn’t have left the phone on a ride because I never took it on one, a friend said, “You’re the second person I know in 2 days to lose phones at the State Fair. There is a pick-pocket!”


And that definitely completes the story with a creepy twist, whether I’m 100% certain it’s the truth or not.  And I’m not sure if thinking I dropped it and no one turned it in is better than someone signaling me out and robbing me.


Because I went into it all with a good mindset, I’d like to think I’m not just a Grinch in July.  Lessons definitely learned though…state fair



  1. Thanks for sharing your fair story and sorry about your phone! I loved your line, “My ponytail betrayed me.” Awesome. I think the creation of a really great Fair Day takes years of practice – and some luck. With 4 growing kids, I’m sure it’s different for you guys ever year, so forget about the practice! But “mistakes” can always be turned into “lessons” and the information applied next year. Our mistake this year was not going to Splash Dogs in the morning/early afternoon. By 5:00 it was way too hot and crowded. This year we also discovered that the petting zoo out at “The Farm” is free while the one over by the livestock has an entrance fee. In our opinion, the best activity of the fair this year for kids under 90 pounds was the “trail ride” over at The Farm. Kira got a super long pony ride down the waterway, over a bridge, and back. For only $6! And obviously not many people knew about this adventure this year because she didn’t even have to wait in line. She wanted to do it again in the late afternoon, so we went back. The Farm was packed, but there was still no line for the trail rides! Here are some of the best lessons we’ve learned in past years… (1) We decide in advance how many rides, snacks, novelties that each person will be allowed and discuss this as a family. This pretty much eliminates begging and complaining. We suggest that Kira bring cash from her own piggy bank in case she wants any extras beyond this. Also, we discuss and list in advance what everyone wants do do/see, so we can be sure to do these things early in the day before they get too crowded. (2) We pack a lunch, snack, dinner, and bottle of water for each person and take that into the fair with us. Then we allow everyone to buy 1 “fair food” while we are there – plus we grab all of the free marketing snacks/cooking demos that we can from the exposition buildings and out at the Farm. This all saves a ton of money! (3) Sometime during the summer days before the fair, we have the kids write down the title, author, and brief summary of 2 books that they’ve read. When we get to the fair (at opening time), we go directly to the “Lost and Found” building where the kids can turn in their book reports for 2 free ride tickets each. Even toddlers can participate, because they can dictate the report and you can write it down for them. (4) We do the non-ride activities on our list first before those areas get too crowded. We generally start at the front of the fair and then work our way to the back, saving the rides for later in the day. Kira did rides this year around 6pm and had no lines. But that was at “Kids’ Park.” I have no idea what the best hours are for the Midway. By the way, The Farm is a great place to find free children’s activities and free farm games/contests. Check the program when you get there for the times. Plus there is a great sandbox there, with dried corn seeds instead of sand, for the younger kids to play in. Plus there are some nice shaded tables by the “waterfront” – which is a lovely lunch spot. Other great activities for 10 and under kids include Camp Smokey, the Petting Zoo, and The Nursery. (5) We bring a sack of quarters for the Footsie Wootsies. Cheapest and best “ride” at the fair. (6) Through age 9 we skipped the Midway entirely and Kira did rides at the Kids’ Park instead. Much more Kira’s speed and the carnies are much less obnoxious. (7) We like to go to the fair on a day when there are horse races. And we go to the horse races sometime around 5pm give or take when the rest of the fair starts to become hot and obnoxious. Also those days the fair starts at 10am. and 10am-1pm is fabulous at the fair. No crowds! But with 4 kids, you can’t beat those Tuesday prices!! BTW we found some pigs this year in “The Nursery” tent near the Livestock Pavillion and in the petting zoo at The Farm. But they seemed to have far fewer pigs this year than in past years. They move some things around each year, so you may have to ask next year. Every family’s fair experience is different, that’s for sure! Mark’s family went to the State Fair every year when he was growing up, so he and his mom have lots of “insider tips” that help us navigate each year and each year our experience is more refined. It is always one of our favorite days of the summer.

  2. Wow, Kim!! Thanks for the wealth of info. I wish I’d asked you first!

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