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June 24, 2009 > A summertime tradition

A summertime tradition

Trade fairs have been a countryside tradition throughout history. These social gatherings existed to communicate, display and trade with others from near and far. In years past agrarian economies based on working farms and ranches left little time for lengthy and often difficult travel and communication with "neighbors" living miles away. Gatherings to sell and trade goods, compare notes on farming techniques and discoveries provided an opportunity to demonstrate skills and offered a welcome diversion from daily chores.

In the United States, local exhibitions were organized in the early nineteenth century to promote modern farming techniques. In 1841, the Union Agricultural Society held its first annual fair in Naperville, Illinois. With the fair's success, additional county fairs emerged and permanent fairgrounds were created. State fairs emerged competing with national exhibitions drawing thousands of people. Entertainment including horse racing, competitions and fireworks expanded the scope of fair offerings. Children were invited to compete in domestic arts and livestock husbandry in the 1900's through a national organization - still active to this day - called "4-H" (Head, Heart, Hands, Health) symbolized by a 4-leaf clover.

Urbanization and rising costs have taken their toll on county and state fairs, but they have survived and offer everyone including urbanites an opportunity for recreation, competition and contact with our country's agrarian roots. Midway games, competitions, exhibitions and entertainment are all very much alive today at many county fairs including the Alameda County Fair which begins in Pleasanton on Wednesday, July 1st and will remain open through Sunday, July 19th. Fair admission is $10 at the gate reduced for seniors and children and many "fun packs" that offer discounts for parking, carnival games and drinks. Admission to concerts and live horseracing is free with admission.

A complete schedule of top entertainment, competitions and attractions is available at

Alameda County Fairgrounds
4501 Pleasanton Ave, Pleasanton
(925) 426-7600

Closed Mondays
Tues. - Thurs. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Fri. - Sun. 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.
July 4th - 10 a.m. - 9 p.m.

Carnival Hours
12 p.m. - 'til closing

County Fair Historical Reference:
Marcia Lautanen-Raleigh and Charles P. Raleigh

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