The Big Fresno Fair Opens for the 130th Time

Oct 02, 2013 No Comments by

FRESNO – The Big Fresno Fair celebrated its 130th run yesterday with its annual Opening Ceremonies, during which time attendees at the Blue Moon Station celebrated years of success dating back to 1883.

One of this year’s guests was Secretary Karen Ross with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, who was visiting the fair for the first time.  After Opening Ceremonies were over, Ross said she was looking forward to heading to the many agricultural and livestock exhibits, as well as those that are water-related.

“That is the topic of the century, and for us to grow the food that the world needs for our fast-growing population,” Ross said.

It is fitting that Ross visit The Big Fresno Fair, as it sits in Fresno County, the number one agricultural county in the state of California.  Ryan Jacobsen, CEO of the Fresno County Farm Bureau, also doubling as the ceremonies’ MC, said that in 2012 the county’s direct farm gate was $6.6 billion.



“We’re celebrating 130 years of the best of what Fresno County has to offer,” Jacobsen said.

One new exhibit that is sure to increase in popularity over the years is The Big Fresno Fair Museum, filled with items donated by the community from throughout the fair’s history.  During today’s ceremonies, it was announced that the museum would be donated to The Big Fresno Fair CEO John Alkire.

Sharon Johnson, executive director of Susan G. Komen for the Cure Central Valley (center) is this year’s Community Champions Award recipient in the Humanitarian category.

“I have huge respect for what the CEO’s of our fairs do,” Ross said.  “It’s obviously very challenging times for fairs, but having inspired, passionate leaders like John, who’s put together such a professional team, really shows me why this fair is so successful.”

Other new features this year are the Reptile House on the side of the stairwell leading up to the top of the Meyers Water & Wildlife Tree; the Discover the Dinosaurs exhibit with life-size replicas of dinosaurs; and the humorous Sea Lion Splash show.  New carnival rides are Vertigo, Big Top and the Ex-Scream Machine Coaster.

The Big Fresno Fair is also aiming to top last year’s record-breaking 76.5 tons of food gathered during the “Feed the Need” Community Food Drive.  The Big Fresno Fair, The Salvation Army and Community Food Bank have partnered the past four years to acquire 210.5 tons of food, an effort that gave The Big Fresno Fair its second Merrill Award from the Western Fairs Association in 2011.

For the past several years The Big Fresno Fair has made a tradition of honoring fair and community supporters with The Big Fresno Fair Hall of Fame and Community Champions Awards.  This year’s Community Champions Award recipient in the Humanitarian category was Sharon Johnson, executive director of Susan G. Komen for the Cure Central Valley.  Johnson is a two-time breast cancer survivor, and the work she does affects 23,000 women locally each year.

“It’s really an honor to be recognized by The Big Fresno Fair, and it really gives me an opportunity to recognize those that support me and love this cause,” Johnson said.

Below is a list of this year’s Big Fresno Fair Hall of Fame inductees and Community Champions Awards recipients.

Big Fresno Fair Hall of Fame 

Tim Bakman

Gary Nelson

Mike Fitzgerald

Robert Smittcamp

Marvin A. Meyers

Community Champions Awards 


Teri and Ken Penfold


David Lopes


Sharon Johnson

Special Award 

Al Smith

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About the author

James Olinger is a native of the San Joaquin Valley. He graduated from West Hills College in Coalinga, California in 2000 with an associate's degree in liberal arts. He joined Business Street in 2004 as a staff writer, and became the associate editor in 2007. He maintains that position today, writing for Business Street Online in a variety of topics.
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