Rachel Taylor / The Collegian
The Big Fresno Fair will feature more than 50 rides and attractions this year, including a variety of roller coasters and two traditional Ferris wheels.
Filling the 165-acre lot it calls home, The Big Fresno Fair isn’t just big. From new vendors to fair-food cult classics, a variety of live entertainment and a new “Discover the Dinosaurs” display complete with 7-foot-tall animatronic dinosaurs, deputy manager Lauri King said The Big Fresno Fair, which opens Wednesday, has a little bit of everything.
Concerts and Entertainment
“We pride ourselves on having a variety of acts, something for everyone, and this year was no exception,” King said.
Among this year’s musical lineup are the hit ‘90s group Boyz II Men, teen-pop sensations Zendaya and Austin Mahone, the rock band Tesla and Christian rock group Skillet.
“One of the best bands we have selling No. 1 right now is the rock group Korn,” King said. “And then we have country sensation Darius Rucker on the last night of the fair.”
King said comedian Gabriel Iglesias will be making a stop in Fresno, and she said there are other entertainment options as well.
“We really pride ourselves on having a lot of free entertainment,” King said. “We have numerous stages throughout the grounds that we’ll have local bands on, and we have some great shows that’ll go on.”
As patrons walk through the fair, King said they can view any of the fair’s “fantastic” exhibits, showcasing everything from jam, to livestock, to new exhibits featuring dinosaurs and reptiles.
“Our ‘Discover the Dinosaurs’ exhibit will actually take huge dinosaurs, and they’ll be moving, and they have animatronics to them,” King said. “There are seven dinosaurs that’ll be on display there, and then we’ll pair that with a reptile exhibit, so it’ll be a dinosaur and then a reptile with it that is kind of a descendant of the dinosaur’s.”
After discovering the dinos, King said kids can participate in a fossil dig and make a dinosaur footprint of their very own.
“Our mission is to celebrate, educate and have fun, and we take pride in making sure that every exhibit we have has an educational value to it,” King said. “So from our floriculture building to our livestock building, there is some kind of an educational message for people.”
- Valley Reptile House and Water Flow Map
King said the fair is opening another “slimy” new exhibit under the “Meyers Water Bank and Wildlife Tree.”
“We have a reptile house, and we’ll have snakes and lizards, and all kinds of amphibious things throughout,” King said. “All the slithery things that are in Fresno County, they’ll be on display there.”
The tree will also feature a new handcrafted “Water Flow Map” of California, which King said will display the way water flows in the Central Valley, and why water is important to our region’s agricultural development.
- Wells Fargo Agriculture Building
In an ode to Fresno’s rich agricultural history and fertile place in the Valley, King said the 20,000-square-foot Wells Fargo Agriculture Building displays more than 350 fruits, vegetables and grains grown in Fresno County.
King said the huge eye-catching displays are put together by groups like the East Fresno Kiwanis Club and the Lions Club. She said the money the groups earn from their part in the display goes to support their individual organizations.
“It’s an amazing thing; it’s all volunteer, and they put together just really a neat display,” King said. “It’s unlike any building anywhere else, probably in the nation.
“It’s beautiful, it’s my favorite building on [fair] grounds.”
Fair-time food: crepes and deep-fried hot dogs
“We have any food you can imagine,” King said of the fair’s multitude of vendors.
Famous for its funnel cakes and corn dogs, King said the fair’s staples will be joined by a few new additions this year, including a chicken wings stand.
“So they’ll have all different kinds of chicken wings and different kinds of sauces,” King said, “And then we also have a new waffle and crepe stand that’ll be here, and we have a new specialty drink, it’s a Texas-Tea Twister drink.”
Most recently booked, King said, is “Southern Comfort Living,” a Cajun-style food stand new to the fair this year.
Danielle LeBouef Griffin, The Big Fresno Fair communications director, said the stand is run by three brothers from Louisiana whose family is in the restaurant business.
“They took their family recipes on the road through this food booth,” Griffin said. “And so they’ve been touring the fair circuit and have had really great success.”
For those counting the days until their yearly deep-fried, bacon-wrapped hot dog binge, King said the fair won’t be without its classic treats.
“And we have our fair-time Fresno favorites, with the rolled soft taco, and we have our corn dogs back,” King said. “And Big Bubba’s Bad BBQ, with all of their barbecue, and we’ve got our healthy treats with the Sleek Greek and our fruit stand.”
Although there are healthier options, King said fair food is meant to be extra-good.
“When you come to the fair, the fair is a special treat,” King said. “It’s not a lifestyle of eating.”
To which Griffin pointed out, and King agreed, you walk around a lot.
“It’s the perfect way to burn calories and eat great calories,” King said.
Of a carnival she calls “exceptional,” King said the fair features more than 50 rides by Butler Amusements.
“They are one of the best carnivals in the western United States,” King said. “They’ve been our partner now, this is going on their third year back with us, and they’ll have over 35 rides in our major area, and then we have another 20 rides in our kiddie area.”
King said the fair will debut a new coaster this year, the Ex-Scream Machine.
“The carnival is a lot of fun,” King said. “You can buy discount admission, discount wristband tickets for the carnival through Tuesday, and it’s $25 if you buy it before the fair, then it goes up to $30 during the week and $35 on the weekends.”
With two boys, ages 4 and 5, King said she has been on every ride.
“I have,” King said. “My kids love the Dizzy Dragons, so we go as a family on the Dizzy Dragons, and they have a great time.”
Starting Thursday, King said the fair will have nine days of horse racing, along with a few other events, including a mascot-obstacle course featuring some of Fresno’s favorite mascots.
“Out on our track, we have a MMA cage fighting happening on Sunday. Oct. 6, at 8 p.m., and then we also have an extreme tractor pull on Monday the 14th at 8 p.m.,” King said.
Both events are free, and because the fair’s grandstand holds 6,000, King said she expects to see a great crowd for each.
King said $2-off, discounted tickets are only available at FoodMaxx and Save Mart Supermarkets locations.
She said patrons can purchase Unlimited Carnival Ride Wristbands up until Tuesday online, at Save Mart Supermarkets or FoodMaxx stores or at the fairgrounds’ box office.
Ticket information and other discount options are also available on www.fresnofair.com.
For those who have already been to the fair, King said she promises it’s never the same experience twice.
“We have our new exhibits, and we’re constantly making changes to the grounds and adding new things,” King said. “Obviously, our entertainment lineup and our free events that are taking place in the grandstands, so we are geared up and ready for an amazing fair.”