PLEASANTON -- Battling an extreme heat wave and a weeklong BART strike, the 101st edition of the Alameda County Fair finished its 17-day run Sunday with a mixed bag, reporting a decline in visitors and an increase in on-track horse wagering.
Overall fair attendance fell nearly 27 percent from last year, a drop that organizers blamed on the exceptionally hot and muggy weather.
"This year, we had seven days of heat over 100 (degrees) and a day of rain," said Angel Moore, the fair's marketing and event specialist. "That takes its toll on our attendance."
Total attendance was 391,426, Moore said, significantly down from the 534,577 reported in 2012. However, the fair did set an all-time opening day record, drawing in 31,389 patrons on June 19 -- up 2.3 percent from last year.
Nearly 50,000 people watched horse racing this year; among the highlights was jockey Russell Baze -- the winningest jockey in North America -- who notched his 12,000th career win by way of a photo finish on the fair's closing day. The on-track handle approached $4.9 million, up 3 percent from 2012, an uptick organizers credited to an improving economy, new promotions, and more businesses holding special racetrack events.
"All those things partnered together to make for a fantastic horse meet," Moore said.
Musical acts such as "Weird Al" Yankovic, Zendaya and Babyface drew in crowds by the thousands. Moore estimated the "Weird Al" crowd at 7,000 to 8,000 people.
Vendors reported the sale of 100,336 corn dogs, 44,519 funnel cakes, and 1,845 Krispy Kreme Doughnut Burgers over the course of the fair's run. The fair brought in 4,937 exhibitors and 18,764 competitive entries, up 10 percent from 2012. Junior livestock sales topped $557,000, up 3 percent per animal from last year.
All things considered, organizers looked back on the 2013 Fair as a success, with hopes that the weather cooperates next year.
"Obviously the heat had an impact on attendance, but we still had a great event," Moore said. "As always, we're really proud of what we provided for the community. ... We just really look forward to 2014."
Contact Jeremy Thomas at 925-847-2184. Follow him at Twitter.com/jet_bang.