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The California State Fair has the fifth biggest attendance in America. Since California is the biggest state, some people in other states might have guessed it would have the biggest. But those of us in Sacramento know it has always had its limits. This week I decided to analyze the bigger picture of all the state fairs around the country, which I have documented on SacTV.com with links to all the state fair websites. I wanted to see how our fair at Cal Expo compares with others around the country.
What I found out is due to the recession, a few state fairs have disappeared. Michigan and Nevada, two of the worst stricken states in the economic downturn, have been the first two to drop out. Tennessee almost cancelled their state fair a few years ago but the people in Nashville rose up with a petition and had a vote to keep it alive. Then there's Virginia, whose non-profit state fair operators went bankrupt this past year, so they were forced to sell the fairgrounds to the company that runs state fairs in Tennessee, Georgia and Washington.
Many of the state fairs, like Cal Expo, are driven by agriculture. Many of them also have rodeos and races. Some are campgrounds and attract RV travelers. Some states only do county fairs or mergers with other fairs. Many state fairs have been in business for over a century and haven't changed a lot over the years. It's too bad Cal Expo's worst change over the years has been getting rid of its best attraction, the Cal Expo Amphitheater, a venue that spawned the Fair's best memories. On the bright side, Cal Expo now has the biggest water park in town called Raging Waters.
As far as entertainment, I found that several other state fairs have bigger name acts, which I've listed on SacTV.com. It makes you wonder why California, the entertainment epicenter of the world, can't have the biggest names at its fair. Then again, you would either have to be a big fan of country music or oldies revival shows to really get into the entertainment at other state fairs. Overall, I've come to the conclusion that considering Cal Expo's budget, the 2012 state fair is not that bad, based on the concert lineup, but the overall fair still could use lots of new ideas to modernize the event. It wouldn't be that hard using imagination to make it the best fair in the country.
The idea of a state fair is to showcase the best of what the state has to offer to tourists and potential future residents. I'm not sure Cal Expo does that, but again, all it takes is imagination and creative budget analysis to make it happen. It would also be great if the state fair had its own theme song.