Secrets of the state fair

The California State Fair happens July 12-29 at Cal Expo, 1600 Exposition Boulevard. For more information, call (916) 263-3247 or visit

Cal Expo

1600 Exposition Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95815

(877) 225-3976

Top 10 ‘alternative’ attractions at California State Fair

This summer, as the California State Fair celebrates its 158th year, you might be wondering what—if anything—there is that you haven’t already seen or done. Kicking off Thursday, July 12, the fair will, of course, feature tried-and-true entertainment such as midway rides, evening concerts and that tired old hypnotist bit. But what about the new and unusual attractions? SN&R saved you the trouble of looking through an overwhelmingly large calendar to bring you the following guide, featuring 10 of this year’s best off-the-beaten path, can’t-miss events and attractions.


1. You’ve got your half-pipe Sure, you could argue that Tony Hawk is a sellout. But you can’t deny his uncanny business skills, innovative skating style or his reach as a skateboarding teacher (via a popular series of instructional videos). He’ll bring a half-pipe skating event—featuring Birdhouse Skateboards teammates Willy Santos, Lincoln Ueda and Neal Hendrix—on Monday, July 16, from 7 to 7:45 p.m., at the Miller Lite Grandstand.

2. Bring on the dancing horses While this dancing equine attraction—and celebrated art form—may not exactly be new, it’s certainly a bit unusual. And, hopefully, not as cruel to participating horses as the infamous “diving horse” routine once popular in Atlantic City, N.J. Every night at 8 p.m., there will be a horse show featuring the Magical World of Dancing Horses, the Nu Balance Vaulters and the Sacramento ounty Sheriff’s Posse at the Cavalcade of Horses.

3. Doggy paddle Although my dog loves the occasional romp in the rain, he hates (with a passion) sprinklers, hoses and all bodies of water. The Splash Dogs, on the other hand, is a dog troupe featuring canines that jump off docks to catch their favorite dog toys. The attraction can be seen Thursday and Friday, July 12 and 13, at noon, 2, 4 and 6 p.m.; Saturday, July 14, at 11 a.m., 1, 3 and 5 p.m.; and Sunday, July 15, at 11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m. at the Miller Lite Grandstand.

4. Belt it out—for the win We’ve all heard a drunken person’s caterwauling singing voice at some point or another. But at this State Karaoke Championship, the contestants will actually be (hopefully) good. California’s best karaoke singers will compete for a $500 first-place prize. It happens on Saturday, July 14, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Promenade Stage. The finals begin at 7 p.m.

5. Ride for a good cause To raise awareness for congenital heart disease, Christina Lochmiller will attempt to beat a Guinness World Record for the “longest marathon riding a fairground attraction.” Clockwatchers note: Lochmiller will attempt to ride the Eagle 16 Ferris wheel for 26 hours and 30 minutes starting Monday, July 23. Ride with her for a $5 donation to the Children’s Miracle Network.

Food & Drink

1. Take these wings … In the wing-eating contest—a Major League Eating-sanctioned event—competitors attempt to swallow as many chicken wings as possible in 10 minutes. The winner earns $500 and the chance to compete in the Hooters World Wing-Eating Championship, happening later this month in New York City. It happens Saturday, July 14, at 6 p.m. on the Promenade Stage.

2. Not sick to your stomach yet? Just in case witnessing one eating competition isn’t enough, you can also watch a corn-dog eating competition. Last year, competitive eater Johnnie Excel won the corn-dog eating contest by consuming 18 corn dogs in eight minutes, earning him a $2,000 check. Catch the corn-dog eating contest finals Saturday, July 21, at 4 p.m., at the Promenade Stage to see if he’ll repeat as champ.

3. Make mine a double Guinness World Records will be on hand to record the State Fair’s attempt at the world’s largest cocktail. Ovations Food Services employee Nick Nicora aims to create a 10,500-gallon margarita called the Calorita (California’s Margarita) using a 30-foot-tall cocktail shaker. Afterward, fairgoers can purchase 16-ounce souvenir cups or shakers of the record-breaking drink for $10 and $15 dollars, respectively. It all happens starting at 10 a.m. on Friday, July 13, across from Cantina Hussongs.

4. Gourmet gluttons Had enough with the excessively gluttonous food activities? There are also plenty of food competitions catered toward the gourmet—instead of the gourmand—eater. These include contests for the best baked good, canned-food item and coffee concoction. California’s Kitchen Competition winners can be found in Expo Center Building 2 throughout the fair.

5. Fried. Foods. Five words: deep-fried red-velvet cake. That’s all you need to know. See Food Stuff, page 31, for more details.