There’s the Commerce Building, in which merchants sell products only found at fairs.
And this year for the first time ever, visitors can climb atop camels trucked to the fairgrounds in southeast Fresno from a ranch in Riverside County.
Kristina Oliver, owner of Camel Rides by Oliver Livestock from Wildomar, said the desert critters catch some fairgoers by surprise.
“A lot of people are not even sure what they are until they come closer up,” Oliver said. “They’re prehistoric-looking and (people) are in awe when they realize how big they actually are.”
Priced at $7 a ride and $8 for a souvenir photo included, Oliver has taken her camels to fairs in Hanford, Tulare, Sacramento and even Tucson, Ariz. She’s provided camels to about 15 fairs so far this year, she said.
Camels are something people in Fresno don’t get to see every day. But Barry Spillwell, 61, saw some in a family trip to the Old City of Jerusalem.
They’re prehistoric-looking and (people) are in awe when they realize how big they actually are.
Kristina Oliver, owner of Oliver Livestock
Spillwell said he was amazed the Fresno fair camels look as good as they do.
“I’m really surprised they are so healthy and well-looking,” Spillwell said.
Spillwell’s grandson, Ryder Lynch, 7, rode Pistol, a 13-year-old camel. Spillwell said Ryder wanted to ride the camels as soon as he spotted them.
Kitty Lloyd, 69, also noticed the new attraction as she roamed the grounds early on taking photos.
Dozens of people were in the fairgrounds for the opening ceremonies and then headed around the grounds to get an early peek at exhibits and concessions.
Hundreds more were lined up when the gates opened at 11 a.m. An estimated 66,000 people attended the fair last year, and fair officials expect a repeat this year.
I remember when they had camel rides at the (Fresno Chaffee Zoo), but it has been a long time.
Kitty Lloyd, fairgoer
Lloyd has been camped out in the Sierra for about seven and a half months, and said she just stopped in Fresno on Wednesday morning when she found out the fair was opening.
As an illustrator and author of educational material for elementary students, Lloyd said the characteristics of camels intrigue her.
“I think they have wonderful, distinct faces,” she said. “From an artist viewpoint, they have character.”
Lloyd didn’t ride, citing health issues, but said the camels brought memories.
“I remember when they had camel rides at the (Fresno Chaffee Zoo), but it has been a long time,” she said.
Elsewhere at the fair, the Commerce Building was flooded with people on the prowl for items to purchase, including fan-favorite treats like cinnamon rolls.
Fresno resident Bobbie Holland, 65, was there to get the word out about the Rainbow Cleaning System, a water-based vacuum that she said is only found at fairgrounds and home shows.
“Anything that’s wettable is trapped in the water,” Holland said, explaining the function of the vacuum, which is certified to reduce allergies and guaranteed to last up to 30 years. A few customers stopped by and said they still have their vacuum after 25 years.
In the Livestock Pavilion, animals from local high school agriculture programs are being prepared for upcoming showings.
A flock of female sheep all pregnant with twins are corralled in the pavilion and are expected to give birth by the time the fair ends on Oct. 16. A few gave birth Wednesday. People walking around the pavilion also caught a glimpse of birds, beef cattle, pigs and miniature horses.
The Big Fresno Fair
Gates open: Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 10 a.m.
Gates close: Sunday-Thursday, 11 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, midnight
Museum: Open until 9 p.m.
Carnival: Monday-Friday, 3 p.m. to close (kiddie carnival opens at 10 a.m. Monday-Friday); Saturday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to close
Horse racing start times: Monday, Thursday, Friday, 1:15 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 12:15 p.m.
Admission: Adults, $10; military, seniors 62 and older, and children ages 6-12, $7; children 5 and under, free
Parking: $15, Chance Avenue lot; $10, Butler Avenue and infield lots; $5, Maple/Butler and Cedar/Kings Canyon lots.
Clovis Park and Ride shuttle: Free shuttles pickup every half hour, from 9:40 a.m. to 11 p.m., on Saturdays and Sundays from Clovis Park and Ride at Highway 168 and Temperance Avenue.