Suey and saints

Here’s the California State Fair before life was sponsored by soda and automakers.

Here’s the California State Fair before life was sponsored by soda and automakers.

For the 150th year in a row, Sacramento welcomes the world to the California State Fair. From rock bands to cowhands, it’s the largest spectacle Sacramento will host between June’s agricultural ministerial conference and October’s gubernatorial recall. Like those events, the fair is hard to navigate without growing cynical at the obvious influence of big business. When I opened my state fair CD-ROM media kit, I was immediately treated to a series of advertising logos: Coca-Cola! Budweiser! Pontiac—“Fuel for the Soul!” Next came a video speech by Governor Gray Davis and, finally, the fair information itself. If this is any indication of the marketing blitz awaiting fairgoers, hold on to your tinfoil hats. It’s going to be a manipulative ride.

Still, the fair is the fair. It’s egg rolls on sticks, rickety roller coasters and tiny kids dragging giant stuffed dogs. It’s holding hands on the Ferris wheel; the smell of goats; and the melty, sweet taste of cotton candy. Missing the state fair would be like canceling summer.

So, we’ll go. We’ll try to ignore the Interactive Game Xperience (where PlayStation 2 and Nintendo will tempt kids with the same video games their parents unplugged to get them to the fair) and the Kid’s Biotech Adventureland (“It’s Ag-streme!”). We’ll look for things that delight us: the Incredible Acrobats of China, the 600-pound hog turned Michael Jackson impersonator, gecko wrangler Ned McAllister, the Go-Go’s, the B-52’s and the nightly parades and fireworks. We’ll create California memories for the 150th year in a row.

The California State Fair lasts from Friday, August 15, until Monday, September 1, at Cal Expo. Admission is $9 for adults and $5 for children 12 and younger. Fair hours are Monday through Thursday from noon to 10 p.m., and Friday through Sunday from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. Visit for info.