Low attendance for Bay Area county fair season raises concerns for some fair boards

- County fair season is in full swing in the Bay Area this weekend, where three different fairs will be in operation. Some fair boards are concerned with dropping attendance. It could be changing tastes, changing times, competing events or, maybe, just the heat.

Though county fairs are an American tradition, they actually started in England 250 years ago. They were originally called agricultural or livestock shows. Today, there are held in North and South America, Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa, Oceana and the Caribbean. 

This weekend, there are three Bay Area County Fairs to choose from. Alameda continues its run through July 8th. Marin begins its five day run Saturday. Solano, begins on Saturday as well, with an abbreviated two-day, free attendance run. 

"We needed to two days this year to kind of reset and to reevaluate our budget and also to build our reserves for future years. Our goal is that we would get back to four days at the end of June in 2019," said Solano County Fair Marketing Director Debbie Egidio.

Between 2015 and 2017, four Bay Area county fairs have lost substantial attendance. Contra Costa was down 41 percent, Santa Clara was off 34 percent, Sonoma 21 percent and Solano down 15 percent. But, whether ten days or two days, fairs are a centuries old community affair. 

"It's providing an opportunity for people to come out and enjoy all the traditions that the fair brings," said Egidio. 

Weekend heat is going to be an issue. Heat also affects attendance. 

"Sunscreen, of course. Dress appropriately with hats. We also have shaded grounds. Many of our exhibits are indoors. So, you'll have opportunity to get out of the sun that way," said Egidio.

The other Bay Area county fairs are generally flat in attendance or slightly up or down. Very worth mentioning: The California State fair is off by 20% from a 2015 high of 788,000, down to 673,000 last year. That's 150,000 visitors less, almost the entire population of Hayward. 

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