"Big" is in its name, but at the Big Fresno Fair, it's one of the fair's smallest — and newest — attractions that's dearest to John Alkire's heart.
Alkire, CEO of the annual fair in southeast Fresno, has spent nearly three years collecting memorabilia from fairs past to fill a miniature museum nudged right behind the Table Mountain Rancheria family park.
"We thought it only fitting and proper that on our 130th year we look back a little bit instead of always looking forward, to preserve and protect what we've put together in the past," Alkire said.
More than 1,000 fair artifacts are housed in the J.E. O'Neill Building — it's part museum and part board room, used by fair board members to host guests when museum tours aren't running.
Antique popcorn and cotton candy machines dating back to the early 1920s and 1930s, an original manual ticket counter from the early 1900s and a 1916 horse-show trophy are among dozens of items from the fair's earliest years.
The exhibit's oldest ribbon, from 1909, and newspaper clippings from when President Ronald Reagan and Babe Ruth visited the fair are behind glass in one of the museum's two rooms.
Tours are every day, by sign-up only. Community groups are also welcome to sign up for visits.
So what else should you be excited about this year? Here are three other new attractions expected to draw the crowds:
New rides: Get ready to get dizzy on one of the fair's newest rides, "Vertigo." It's like an extreme version of the chair swings — the stomach-curdling, spinning ride moves up and down a 100-foot-tall tower. Also new: a circus-themed fun house called "Big Top," and the "Ex-Scream Machine" roller coaster that takes four-person cars up, down and around its bright green and blue track.
Sea lions: Three sea lions from Florida are expected to shoot hoops and balance balls during free, 30-minute afternoon shows. The show is in the north part of the fair, near the Home Arts building.
Discover the Dinosaurs: A life-size animatronic tyrannosaurus rex growls at exhibit-goers in the fair's prehistoric exhibit. Patrons can use remote controls to direct the giant robotic dinosaurs or use tools to uncover fossils at the "Dino Dig." The free interactive attraction is also home to modern-day reptiles and other animals, including alligators and two macaw parrots. It's in the south part of the grounds, near The Greenhouse.
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