Heading to The Big Fresno Fair? Read this first

Cole Swindell poses for a photo at the 10th Annual ACM Honors in August. He will perform opening night of The Big Fresno Fair on Oct. 5.
Cole Swindell poses for a photo at the 10th Annual ACM Honors in August. He will perform opening night of The Big Fresno Fair on Oct. 5. Invision/AP

The rest of the world doesn’t stop when The Big Fresno Fair hits town, but it can feel that way with the insane amount of entertainment that happens over the fair’s 12-day run, which kicks off Wednesday, Oct. 5.

Live music tends to be the talking point and the fair is bringing in 14 performers for this year’s concert series. It has the fair’s usual cross-genre mix of country, rock, hip-hop, pop, Christian and comedy, although this year there is a punk band, too.

“We work really hard to make sure our entertainment lineup meets the musical tastes of every fair patron,” says Lauri King, a deputy manager with The Big Fresno Fair. Advance ticket sales have been doing well, King says.

The series kicks off with country singer Cole Swindell (Oct. 5). Pop singer Jason Derulo plays Thursday (Oct. 6) and the fair’s first weekend includes performances from The Cult (Oct. 7), Gabriel Eglesias (Oct. 8), Daya and Band MS (both on Oct. 9).

Of course, the concerts aren’t the only thing to know about the fair. Here’s more:

How to save

Here’s a not-so-secret fact about the fair: You shouldn’t pay full price to get in.

Those planning to hit the fair often can save by buying a season pass. The $30 passes are good for the fair’s entire run, but only available until Tuesday, Oct. 4. For further savings, O’Reilly Auto Parts is offering a discounted season pass, available at participating locations and only while supplies last.

You can also save on parking with a season parking pass. The $100 pass is new this year and available at the box office, by phone or online. The pass grants parking access in the Butler and Infield lots through the fair’s run.

Once the fair begins, fairgoers should be on the lookout for coupons and special deal days, including $1 admission on Wednesday, Oct. 5; $2 admission on Tuesday, Oct. 11 (with a voucher from Les Schwab Tires), and free admission for those over 62 on Monday, Oct. 10. Gates open at 9 a.m. that day for a special Seniors’ Lifestyle Expo.

A full list of savings and promotions can be found at the Big Fresno Fair’s website, www.fresnofair.com.

Fresno County Historical Museum

Last year, the fair unveiled a $3.2 million, 14,000-square-foot museum dedicated to diverse and rich history of Fresno County. The museum is open daily for guests to explore on their own or via guided tours, which run at 11:30 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. each day.

The museum has a large showcase of local artifacts including several added just this year. The museum is now the home to the original bar top from the Cosmopolitan Tavern and signage from businesses like Hallowell Chevrolet, Hacienda Motel and Lesterburger.

Insect Island

The so-called Insect Island is one part of Extreme Creature Feature, where guests can see rare wildlife from snakes and turtles to scorpions, lizards – even a giant bird-eating tarantula. Other parts of the exhibit include an Albino Alley and Venomous Valley.

The exhibit is free with fair admission.


Speaking of rare creatures, the fair is cashing in on the Pokémon craze by hosting a Pokémon Go Competition, Thursday, Oct. 6. There will be 18 Pokéstops and more than 50 lures, and the trainer with the highest combat-powered Pokémon wins. Entry is $5 and includes a raffle ticket and a free Pokémon button.


Catherine Hickland may be known for her role as Lindsay Rappaport on the soap opera “One Life To Live.” She is also a certified hypnotherapist and touring hypno-comedian (totally a real term). Hickland performs more than 200 shows a year, “turning folks into chickens nightly.”

Derby style hat contest

This is one for fashion and racetrack fans – Kentucky Derby hatwear being a rather specific kind of fashion. The fair hosts a Derby Style Hat Contest on Monday, Oct. 10. Judging will take place during the day’s horse races, starting after the second race, with awards given for most glamorous hat, best hat/outfit combo, best fair themed hat and the funniest or most outrageous. All participants will be asked to meet in the Winners Circle for judging.

Deep-fried … everything

Deep-fried food is a fair staple and can be applied to just about anything. Last year, there was deep-fried butter. This year look for your deep-fried foods at Chicken Charlie’s and Fat Fanny’s (both inside the Sports Zone). Your options include: a peanut butter pickle, bacon-wrapped guacamole, bacon s’more, cookie dough, marshmallow (with chocolate) and Reese’s (we’re assuming it’s the peanut butter cup).

Joshua Tehee: 559-441-6479, @joshuatehee