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Big Fresno Fair Had Big Crowds and Food Sales, Despite Big Winds



Carnival rides at the 2021 Big Fresno Fair included the Wave Swinger. (Big Fresno Fair)
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The Big Fresno Fair roared back during its 12-day run that ended Sunday with big crowds, big livestock sales, and big efforts to keep visitors and staff safe from COVID-19.

“It filled all of us with so much joy and gratitude to see our fairgrounds come back to life.” — Fair deputy manager Stacy Rianda 

Fair officials reported Wednesday that attendance was 591,921, slightly less than the 632,590 who enjoyed the 2019 Big Fresno Fair, the state’s fourth-largest. But the 2019 attendance was spread over 13 days, so the 2021 attendance was about 1% higher on a per-day basis, officials said.

The 2020 fair was converted to a drive-through because of public gathering restrictions prompted by the pandemic.

“It filled all of us with so much joy and gratitude to see our fairgrounds come back to life. To see families and friends out together and having fun. To hear laughter and music fill the air — to see the smiles on faces as we walked through the grounds,” fair deputy manager Stacy Rianda said. “That is what it’s all about and why we worked so hard to survive the past year and come back with a family-friendly, safe event for our community to enjoy.”

Horse racing attendance was down by about 0.81% compared to 2019, but this year there were only six racing days compared to nine in 2019. High winds on Oct. 11 forced the cancellation of horse racing and grounded some of the carnival rides.

This year there were 50 races with an average of six horses per race. No injuries of animals or jockeys were reported, which was attributed to the quality of the track surface.

The only event canceled by COVID-19 was the concert by country band Midland, which had been on track to attract a big crowd to the Paul Paul Theater. Fair officials had introduced health and safety measures to keep staff and attendees safe from the virus.

Other Fair Numbers

  • The Livestock Pavilion drew 818 exhibitors from 26 4-H and FFA groups. In the Junior Livestock Auction and Dairy Replacement Heifer Sale, 635 animals were sold for $944,616.43; with add-on bids, total sales will exceed $1 million.
  • Fairgoers apparently missed their cinnamon rolls, bierocks, and tacos: Food sales increased 3.94% compared to 2019.
  • The “Pint for a Pass” Blood Drive held Sept. 15-Oct. 16 in partnership with the Central California Blood Center collected 6,487 pints of blood, raising the 11-year total to more than 97,000 pints.
  • Scholarships totaling $87,000 were given out to Fresno County students in eighth through 12th grades as part of the fair’s 4.0 & Above Program held in partnership with the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools. Joanna Mendez, a Sunnyside High School senior, won a 2022 Toyota Corolla.
  • Cash prizes totaling $13,000 were given to the Big Band Review participants. Washington Union High School and Clovis Unified’s Clark Intermediate took top honors as sweepstakes winners.

Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email