A day at the Big Fresno Fair can easily cost a family of four $100 or more.
You’re shelling out cash for parking, admission, rides and food. Then there’s the must-have mop, the super-sharp knives and the absorbent chamois towel. What else did I forget? Oh, the balloons (or the light-up sword) conveniently located near the exit so my kids can get one last gift before leaving.
How can families stretch their dollars to save money and still have Big Fun?
With a little bit of planning, some searching and a lot of discipline, you and your family can join in the fun and not break the bank. Look for the deals. Tickets and unlimited ride bracelets are already on sale until Oct. 3, the day before the fair starts. There are also daily admission and ride specials throughout the 12-day event.
“We want to make sure people can come out and have an action-packed time for as little money as possible,” said Lauri King, the fair’s deputy manager. “We have multiple discounts available.”
Check out the deals here and some free activities once you and your family are through the gate:
Save $2 off regular admission prices of $12 for adults and $8 for children ages 6 to 12 by purchasing tickets now at participating Save Mart Supermarkets and FoodMaxx stores. Vouchers for a $28 season pass are available at participating O’Reilly Auto Parts locations. That’s $10 less than the fair website price of $38. These deals end Oct. 3.
Admission is only $1 on opening day, Oct. 4. Wait a day and admission is free between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. Oct. 5 if you follow the fair on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Watch for a link on the social media pages Oct. 4 with a special bar code and instructions on how to redeem the ticket.
Table Mountain Casino Club Card members get in free Oct. 5. Bring your Club Card and ID card to the Chance or Butler avenue entrance gates.
Seniors age 62 and older and people with disabilities (plus a chaperone) get in free Oct. 9 on Seniors’ Day and Special Interest Day. The gates open at 9 a.m. instead of 11 a.m. this day only.
Kids age 12 and under get in free Oct. 11 on Sun-Maid Kids’ Day with a paid adult admission. Children 5 and under always get in free.
Les Schwab Tires is giving away vouchers for $2 admission on Oct. 10 only. Go to a participating tire center and ask an employee for a voucher. You don’t have to buy anything. Join the Big Fair Fan Club and get a printable coupon by email for the same deal.
Donate 10 or more cans of food at the “Feed the Need” Food Drive at Fresno State’s Red Lot on Barstow Avenue, and you will receive a free fair admission ticket valid for Mondays through Fridays. All food will go directly to the Fresno State Student Cupboard. Bring five or more non-perishable food items to the fair Oct. 12 and get in free. The food will be donated to the Salvation Army and the Community Food Bank.
When you’re buying tickets at Save Mart or FoodMaxx, get up to $7 off an unlimited carnival ride wristband. You can also buy bands online, by phone at 559-650-3247 or at the box office for $28 until Oct. 3. The regular price is $30 during the week and $35 on weekends.
Rides are $2 each Oct. 5 and Oct. 11. The special price is available in Kiddie Land and the main carnival area. (This deal is the better bet if your kid is like mine and only rides four times because he wants to play games all night.)
There are five free stages to watch dance groups and listen to music. New this year is the Ag Talks stage in the Livestock Pavilion where 4-H and FFA students will talk about farming and the animals they are showing.
Bug out at the new Bug-Ology Exhibit in Kids’ Town, near the Butler Avenue gate, with giant animatronic bugs like a praying mantis and caterpillar, a mini Bug Ranch display and butterfly exhibit. Hungry? Try the Bug Bites Bar (for a cost).
Catch log rolling, chopping, cutting and speed climbing at the new Timberworks Lumberjack Show, near the bugs. Learn about lions, tigers, cougars and other large cats at the Walk on the Wild Side Exhibit next to the Home Arts building.
The Table Mountain Rancheria Park has nine free attractions that include slides, bridges, waterfalls and more. New this year is the Water Shed that uses digital technology to teach about the water cycle, aquifers, groundwater banking, drought and more.
Need a cheap game for the kids? Head to the A&M Livestock Laser Shooting Gallery at Dairyville USA. You get 25 shots for $1.
And remember, you can watch the horse races for free while standing along the racetrack fence beneath the grandstand.
The Big Fresno Fair
1121 S. Chance Ave., Fresno
Runs Oct. 4-15