Alameda County fair returns to full scale operation

It finally feels like summer in Alameda County — the county's annual fair is back in full swing, now free from COVID-19 restrictions.

Organizers were forced to cancel the fair in 2020 because of COVID-19 threats. In 2021, a smaller version of the fair was delayed to the fall.

"We came when our kids were little and missed it the last few years," said Lissa Olson from Pleasanton. "It's fun being back out."

"It's great to be out with the public again," said Marty Barrowcliff from Dublin. "Got to be cautious still, but it's fun to be able to get out."

Fair organizers are loving the return as much as the community.

"People coming through the gates, smiling, and you just feel this sense of energy from everyone," said Tiffany Cadrette, communications manager from the Alameda County Fairgrounds. "There is normalcy resuming."

Some of those people showed up early, hours before the gates opened Saturday morning to participate in the "Sun's Out, Fun's Out" run. It's a 1-mile or 5K run on the horse track of the fairgrounds, benefiting the Sunflower Hill nonprofit. According to its website, the organization specializes in co-developing affordable housing and programs for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

"The fair is outside," Olson said. "Primarily, it's great for families, and summer makes everyone feel like they're going back to normal."

No county fair is complete without food. Jackie Bradbury has worked her entire life in the fair industry, and she says she fried nearly a thousand Oreos a day.

"There is a lot of work, but there is also a lot of love," she said. "Having [deep-fried Oreos] for the hundredth time or the first time — the joy in their faces makes it all worth it."

Most fair nights will host an end of day concert as well as a drone-operated light show. Over the next few weeks, the fair will offer activities like horse racing, pig racing, games and carnival rides.

The fair is offering a Father's Day special — all dads will get in free Sunday until 3 p.m.

The fair ends July 10.