I currently have columns running in 3 newspapers;
- Tri-Valley Herald : Looking Back
- Valley Times : Do You Remember?
- The Independent : Do You Remember?
The Articles appear in the Herald and Independent on Thursdays,
and the Times on Sundays.
They will also be found on this page each week as well.
If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates to catch up.
County fair brings back delicious memories
By Barry Schrader.................................June
Corn dogs, cotton candy, and cake at the 4-H booth: All these (now add kettle corn) bring back fond memories over the past three decades that our family has attended the Alameda County Fair. It is just a week away now and my mouth waters for those “delicacies” that I still enjoy—but there is so much more than food to attract people to the fair.
Looking back to the early beginnings of this major attraction, valley residents can be proud of one of the finest county fairs in the State of California. In fact we have taken visitors from the Midwest to this fair and they raved that it was the best they had ever experienced.
It all began in 1859 when Don Refugio Bernal held the first horse race, building the track where the fairground is located today. But it wasn’t until 1912 that the Alameda County Fair Association was formed and a five day fair was held in October of that year.
Many of those early entries and displays are not too different from today—horse racing, livestock competition for cattle, swine, sheep and poultry plus various agricultural products on display. Other categories included embroidery, quilts, braided rugs, preserves and baked goods. And the arts were also included—oil paintings, water colors, photography, and leather work.
The fair lasted three years and then folded—partly due to World War I taking the attention of the country. After a few failed attempts to get it going again a Fair Association was formed in 1939 with 82 directors (can you imagine organizing any group today with that size board?). In 1941 the association assisted the county in purchasing 100 acres from the property owner for a whopping $40,410. But then World War II came along and fairs were put on hold until 1946.
In 1948 the grounds were enhanced by the donation of 1,000 rosebushes by Jackson & Perkins which was located in Pleasanton at the time. That same year Mayor Jim Trimingham declared a half-day holiday for the observance of Livermore/Pleasanton Day at the fair and many businesses closed to give owners and employees a chance to enjoy the outing. This tradition continued in P-town up to the 1960s. Can you imagine Mayor Jennifer Hosterman declaring such a holiday in 2005 and getting Stoneridge Mall and Hacienda Business Park to shut down for the fair?
All this history came from reading Bob and Pat Lane’s wonderful picture book “Celebrating Family Fun at the County Fair,” available at the Museum on Main or the Fair office. It makes you appreciate the heritage and hard work that goes into producing successful fairs over the years. And there is still a lot of traditional “fair fare” to be seen if you venture far enough into the fairgrounds where the livestock are exhibited, early American antiques and handicrafts are featured, agricultural produce is displayed, and artwork, hobbies and collections are showcased. There is so much more to the annual extravaganza than the horse racing and carnival rides. You can’t do it justice in one visit, so plan more than one excursion to the fair between June 24 and July 10. And don’t forget to stop by the Young California Building and pick up a piece of cake and some lemonade.
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Speaking of nostalgia, my old friend Bill Thompson came up to me during the Livermore Rodeo Parade and said I should know there are more world champion cowboys from Livermore than Johnie Schneider (although Johnie was unique in being an All-Around cowboy). He rattled off the names of Joseph Murray who was team roping champ back in the 1970s, Ted Ashworth, team roping champion in 1956, and Vern and Vic Castro who lived in the valley awhile when they held the team roping title. Bill would be the one to know—he was a professional rodeo circuit photographer around California for at least 10 years, but just as a sideline to running a newspaper press which he did for the Tracy Press.
The columnist can be reached via email at :
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PO Box 446
Livermore, CA. 94551