My sister and some of my cousins and I went out to the Alameda County Fair yesterday for some old-timey fun.
My family has been going to the Alameda County Fair for most of our lives. What's remarkable is how little is has changed over the decades. It still has the same slightly sketchy carnival, the same seedy horse race track, the same classic rock and country bands, the same greasy fried fair food. Which is why we love going.
It's kind of like a time capsule of a simpler time, when the East Bay was more rural, more focused on agriculture, more homogenous culturally.
The model train enthusiasts club puts up the same elaborate dioramas and train tracks that they control with analog switches and dials. It's kind of mesmerizing to watch the trains go round and round. Although I must admit after awhile I kind of wanted a couple of them to collide, or a small Godzilla to attack the little town. Not very nice, I know!
The most disappointing parts of the fair were the educational, kid-focused exhibits. I was amazed when I went to the "Science and Outdoor Adventures" hall had the same painted sugar cube and balsa wood dioramas that we made for school projects when I was a kid, posters about the weather and the solar system, and artwork made from duct tape or yarn. Nothing was interactive and few of the major technological advances of the past 20 years appears to have reached these kids or their projects. Not exactly the Maker Faire.
That said, a few things have changed with the times. The freak show is no longer around, which I was both happy and sad about. There's now a Hawaiian BBQ vendor and an espresso coffee stand. The entertainment mix has more R&B, funk and pop music. A tent extolled the virtues of solar power by letting kids race around remote control cars ostensibly powered by the sun.
But by and large it was almost exactly as I remember it as a kid.
We had a lot of fun at the carnival section, riding a water flume rollercoaster that got us soaked, the "flying swinger" that spins around the riders in swings, bumper cars, and slides.
These swings actually looked like a lot of fun!
No trip to the Fair is complete without the pig races! It's super cheesy and lots of fun watching those little porkers race around the track, as the announcer says terrible pig pun and terrible pun. This year, they had a "Star Wars" themed race, with "Ham Solo", racing against "Chewbacon," "Luke Skyporker," and "Darth Small." Groan.
The farm animal and small animal pens are also a favorite of mine. I love seeing all the giant pigs, tiny horses, exotic pigeons, and cuddly bunnies. Expecially the bunnies!
Finally, we ended the evening with an awesome throwback concert: "Weird Al" Yankovitch. Weird Al is 53 years old, but his songs are still hilarious and his showmanship was really impressive. I would never have thought to buy a ticket to see Weird Al, but his show was pretty damn awesome. I had forgotten how much I love his classic parodies like "Eat It," and "Fat." But his hip-hop parodies really killed!
Here are three of my favorites.