State Fair

A Top 5 guide to the California State Fair

The California State Fair says it has a lock on the “Best 17 Days of Summer” with the kind of exhibits, competitions, educational demonstrations, prizes, rides and food that have greeted fairgoers since 1854.

To mine an event lasting more than two weeks, you’ve got to have a strategy.

On these pages, we’re giving you some highlights to whet your appetite as well as the basic information you’ll need. Whether you use the new State Fair app, go online to the full schedule or just show up and see what happens once you’re inside the gate, you’ve got 17 days, starting Friday.

Special events

  • Splash Dogs: Which canine jumps the longest and farthest off a dock? Miller Lite Racetrack Grandstand, Friday-Sunday, July 10-12
  • Demolition Derby: Smash and crash action in the Show Arena, Friday-Saturday, July 10-11
  • Jaripeo: Riders stay on the bull until it stops bucking; with music and entertainment, Show Arena, Sunday, July 12 and July 26
  • Horse racing: Extended to 11 days of races of thoroughbreds, quarter horses or mules; Miller Lite Racetrack Grandstands, all three weekends
  • Best of California Brewfest: Attendees sample winning beers while watching horse racing, Miller Lite Racetrack Grandstands, July 18

Jeanne Kuang

Concert entertainment

  • Paul Rodriguez, long-tenured Los Angeles comedian; $12, Saturday, July 11
  • MKTO, musical duo known for “Classic,” $16, Monday, July 13
  • Martina McBride McBride, four-time Country Music Association Female Vocalist of the Year, $25, Wednesday, July 15
  • War, the mid-1970s group whose lead singer Lonnie Jordan still belts out “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” $16, July 20
  • Brett Eldredge, the 2014 CMA New Artist of the Year in 2014, $25, July 26
  • All shows begin at 8 p.m. at the Golden 1 Stage. Tickets are in addition to fair admission.

Ben Egel

Science and technology

  • U.S. National Drone Racing Championship, California-style races for speed and agility, aerial combat demonstrations and exhibits, Bonney Field
  • Tech Trek, see how pop culture (“E.T,” “Back to the Future”) impacts technology and experience virtual reality, holograms and 3D printers, Expo Center Building 5, daily throughout the fair
  • Minds for Motion, a hands-on exhibit with giant chessboard, Oculus Rift, and a Rube Goldberg Machine, Expo Center Building 3, daily throughout the fair
  • Industrial & Technology Education, exhibits of winning student projects and rotating demonstrations from groups such as Wonders of the World Science Museum, Hackerlab and the Sacramento City College Electronics and Technology Department., Expo Center Building 4, daily throughout the fair
  • California State Fair app, with your iPhone or Android device, develop your own, personalized schedule of exhibits, shows, rides, food vendors, entertainment stages, and allow you, available on iTunes or Google Play

Katie Strong

Food to judge

  • MRE Cooking Challenge: Contestants are judged on how they make self-contained packaged food, Thursday, July 16 (Military and Veteran Appreciation Day).
  • California Commercial Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Winners of the first competition of commercial olive oil are displayed; free olive oil tasting, California Building B, tasting schedules vary.
  • California Youth Arts: Added this year to competitions among California youths were literary arts, including micro stories and poetry divisions, Expo Center, Building 1, daily throughout the fair
  • Coco’s Pie Eating Contest: An old-fashioned competition in which contestants (kids, youths and adult divisions) chow down without forks on cream pies, Coca-Cola Promenade Stage, Monday
  • California Canning and Baking: Homemade goods that were canned or baked in California are judged live, California Building B, schedule varies

By the end of the fair, more than 20,000 entries will have been judged in a tradition that dates to more than 160 years ago, according to Carrie Wright, the California Exposition State Fair program director.

Jennifer Crane

Food to eat

  • 1. Deep-fried wood-smoked pastrami pizza at Cardilnali’s
  • 2. Beignet with vanilla ice cream at Cloud 9
  • 3. Shrimp-avocado cocktail at Pepe’s Marisco
  • 4. Fried snapper with hush puppies at Minnie’s Corn Bread House
  • 5. Bacon-wrapped corn on the cob at Bacon Habit

Allen Pierleoni

If you go

When: Friday-July 26; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays-Sundays

Where: Cal Expo, 1600 Exposition Blvd., Sacramento

Cost: $8-$12 admission most days; promotional days include discounts on rides and some admissions; parking is $5-$10 per day

Regional transit: Regular fares, drop off and pick up every 15 minutes at front gate.

Information:, Facebook, Twitter, 916-263-FAIR (3247)

Ashiah Scharaga

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