Fair’s Visionary CEO John Alkire Transitions to Fair’s Nonprofit Foundation to Elevate Fundraising Efforts


The Big Fresno Fair (Fair) Board of Directors announced the transition of visionary Fair CEO John Alkire to the Friends of the Big Fresno Fair (Foundation) as its first CEO. Additionally, the Fair Board voted that Deputy Managers, Stacy Rianda and Lauri King will remain at the helm overseeing all ongoing operations to lead the Fair into the future. Both announcements are effective September 1, 2020.


The management restructuring is part of the Fair’s strategic plan to elevate fundraising efforts to achieve long-term success for the 137-year-old Fresno County tradition; an essential function with added emphasis amid the pandemic, which has significantly minimized normal Fair business operations since March.


“On behalf of the Fair Board, we thank John Alkire for his incredible leadership for the past 16 years during which time our Fairgrounds has been visually transformed with permanent features for the entire community to enjoy including two new museums and connections to the community expanded,” said Larry Serpa, President of The Big Fresno Fair Board of Directors. “As our Fair moves forward, there is not a more qualified team to lead than Stacy Rianda and Lauri King whose vast industry experience, personal investment in our community and unwavering leadership are quintessential for our future.”


To read the full release, click here.

The Big Fresno Fair Announces 2020 Board Officer Positions

The Big Fresno Fair is pleased to announce the new Board officer positions for 2020, which are: Larry Serpa, Board President; Jerry Pacheco, Vice President and Charles Riojas as Secretary/Treasurer. Along with this announcement comes the transition of longtime Board Member, Debbie Jacobsen to the Fair’s non-profit Foundation, Friends of The Big Fresno Fair Board.


“We are lucky to have leadership on the Board who continue to support and advocate for the betterment of The Big Fresno Fair to serve our community,” said John C. Alkire, CEO, The Big Fresno Fair. “We are also very grateful for Debbie Jacobsen’s 15 years of service on our Fair Board, and look forward to her continued work as part of our Friends of The Big Fresno Fair Board.”


To read the full release, click here.

The Big Fresno Fair Wins BIG at WFA Convention in Reno, NV!

The Big Fresno Fair took home 21 awards at the Western Fairs Association’s (WFA) 97th Annual Convention & Trade Show held in Reno, Nevada January 19 – 22, 2020, where more than 1,200 fair CEOs, directors, staff and fair-related professionals from roughly 125 fairs throughout the Western United States attended to celebrate the greatest accomplishments of 2019. The Big Fresno Fair walked away with 21 WFA Achievement Awards, which included 9 first place, 8 second place and 4 third place award.


First Place Awards:

  • Radio Advertising – Single Radio Ad, Last Chance For Fair Fun Savings
  • Printed Marketing Campaign – Full Page Fresno Bee Ad, This Week at the Fair
  • Social Media Campaign – Facebook Better Than Front Row Contest
  • Year Round Logo – Big Fresno Fair Corporate Logo Refresh
  • New Community Outreach Program – $4 “Fill the Need” Day Benefitting Valley Children’s
  • Fair-time Event – The Showdown, a New Educational eSports Experience
  • Non-Profit – “Feed the Need” Food Drive Benefitting the Poverello House
  • Crisis Management – The Big Fresno Fair’s Safety & Security Program
  • New Cultural Program – Fresno County Historical Museum’s new Sikh Exhibit


We’d like to thank our wonderful community for their continued support over the past 136 years. We can’t wait to continue the tradition at the 2020 Big Fresno Fair, October 7 – 18! To see the full list of awards and for full release, click here.

Big Fresno Fair Presents Donation Check to Valley Children’s

Valley Children’s patient Roberto with his father are joined by (from left to right) Louie Brosi, Debbie Jacobsen, George the Giraffe, John C. Alkire, Rob Saroyan, Flo the Clown, Stacy Rianda, Jerry Pacheco and Lauri King.

New $4 “Fill the Need” generates $37,496 for Valley Children’s; 2020 Effort Launches

Fresno, CA…December 12, 2019… The Big Fresno Fair is thrilled to present a check for $37,496 to Valley Children’s as result of the incredible community participation at the first-ever $4 “Fill the Need” Day that was held on Thursday, October 10 during the 2019 Big Fresno Fair. 

A total of 18,748 people joined the effort that saw an incredible turn out of Fairgoers who purchased their $4 “Fill the Need” tickets online or that day at the gate. All online fees for these ticket sales were waived by eTix, the Fair’s ticketing company, so the $4 ticket was just $4. Half of the $4 ticket sales went back to Valley Children’s in support of its mission to increase access to life-saving healthcare to the 1.3 million kids in our region. Sponsors of this effort were eTix and ABC 30.

“We are grateful for the generous donation that was made to Valley Children’s by The Big Fresno Fair,” said Rob Saroyan, President of Valley Children’s Healthcare Foundation. “With the support of the community and partners like The Big Fresno Fair, we are capable of helping more families than ever before. We look forward to the future of this partnership and the growth of its positive impact on the Valley.”  

The “Fill the Need” effort further united The Big Fresno Fair, the largest annual event in Central California, and Valley Children’s, one of the top pediatric hospitals in the state. The $4 “Fill the Need” Day partnership serves as a way to provide a big savings to families on their trip to the Fair and provide the satisfaction of knowing their ticket purchase benefits the community, helping to provide increased access to healthcare for Valley kids.  

“We all want healthy, happy kids running around and we are so grateful that this effort is part of a bigger mission to make that happen,” said Lauri King, Deputy Manager II, The Big Fresno Fair. “Thank you to everyone who participated in the new ‘Fill the Need’ Day; we hope you will support it again next year and encourage everyone you know to do so as well! Together, we can make an even bigger impact on the health of our kids, plus have some fun at the Fair!”

Tickets for the 2020 Big Fresno Fair’s $4 “Fill the Need” Day, which will be on Thursday, October 8, are on sale now online at http://bit.ly/2020FilltheNeed. All online ticket fees have been waived, so your $4 ticket is just that, $4!  Also, mark your calendars for the 2020 Big Fresno Fair, October 7 – 18!

About The Big Fresno Fair:

Members of the Board of Directors include: Debbie Jacobsen, President; Larry Serpa, Vice President; Jerry Pacheco, Secretary/Treasurer; Leta Ciavaglia; Gabriel Hernandez; Linda Mae Balakian Hunsucker; Charles Riojas and Lawrence Salinas. John C. Alkire heads the daily operations in his role as CEO. The 2020 Big Fresno Fair will run October 7-18. For more information about The Big Fresno Fair, please visit www.FresnoFair.com.

Fun Facts From the 2019 Big Fresno Fair!

The gates have closed on another Big Fresno Fair, the largest annual event in the Central Valley! This year’s 13 day event welcomed people throughout the Valley and beyond, featured hundreds of vendors and exhibitors, plus a variety of attractions and entertainment! The following information has been prepared as of Tuesday, October 15, and includes a snapshot of interesting and unique facts and statistics from the 2019 Big Fresno Fair.

The Big Fresno Fair hired more than 900 employees for the months of September and October. NOTE: This does not include the local employees hired by our carnival provider, Butler Amusements; or the individual food vendors.

Big Fresno Fair Social Media

  • 50,427,575: The total reach from the Fair’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram during the 13 days of the 2019 Big Fresno Fair
  • The Big Fresno Fair has 85,710 fans on Facebook
  • The Big Fresno Fair has 11,200 followers on Twitter
  • The Big Fresno Fair has 28,700 followers on Instagram
  • The Big Fresno Fair has 1,064 followers on Snapchat

Free Entertainment

  • More than 2,000 hours of FREE entertainment were provided during the 2019 Big Fresno Fair.

Kids’ Town – Sierra to the Sea Exhibit

  • 48 animals were on exhibit
  • 35 tons of sand were used by one artist over 8 days to create the giant 11 ft. tall sand sculpture
  • 70 shows were performed with guest interaction and educational elements.
  • 104,799 people visited this exhibit at the Fair; and 90% of them participated in the stingray touch pool.

Livestock Pavilion

  • 1,500 animals were exhibited at The Big Fresno Fair
  • 763 animals were put up for auction at the two 2019 Jr. Livestock Auctions (10/5 and 10/12) and raised $900,000 with more money still coming in.
  • 50 animals won Champion Awards.

Ag Ventureland

  • 41  pregnant sheep (ewes) were brought to the 2019 Big Fresno Fair
  • 75 lambs were born on-site
  • 910 gallons of milk were collected from 7 cows at the Cow Palace Milking Demonstrations
  • 68 baby animals were on display.

The Fair Education Program

This annual program draws students, teachers and parents from Fresno County Elementary School classrooms who take part in educational tours of the Fair. Young participants visit each exhibit building and they are taught about the rich agricultural history of The Big Fresno Fair while using an interactive and educational guide and having fun all at the same time.

  • A total of 28,879 Fresno County parents, teachers and students toured the Fair on four different days this year as part of the Fair Education Program. This is the 27th year of the Program.
  • Of that total, 20,605 were students who took part in an educational and fun field trip – 7,437 parents/chaperones and 837 teachers!

Wells Fargo Agriculture Building

  • 649 lbs. is how much the biggest pumpkin on display weighed!
  • 200 different varieties of grapes were judged.
  • 11 judges were utilized in the Wells Fargo Agriculture Building this year.
  • 25,000 boxes of Sun-Maid Raisins were handed out.
  • 25 pumpkins were carved into masterpieces by Russ Leno.
  • 30,000 bees were displayed as part of the R & S Ranch Honey exhibit.

Home Arts Building

  • 30 woodcarvings were done during the Fair.
  • 117 homemade quilts were entered.
  • 25 demonstrations were given throughout the Fair.
  • 7 food contests were held:
    • Crocktober Contest – 12 entries
    • Tamale Throwdown – 20 entries
    • Gingerbread House Competition – 12 entries
    • Pie Contest – 21 entries
    • Cake Contest – 29 entries
    • Salsa Contest – 20 entries

Gem and Mineral Exhibit

  • 687 pounds of polished rocks were handed out to children during the Fair Education Program.
  • 65 bags of polished rocks and pendants were taken to Valley Children’s Hospital during the Fair’s annual visit and were given to patients being treated there.
  • $5,000 in scholarships was awarded to Fresno State and Fresno City College geology students.
    • Did you know that the Fresno Gem & Mineral Society has set up an endowment of $40,000 for Fresno City College students and a $50,000 endowment for California State University, Fresno students?
  • Fairgoers favorite thing in the building? Watching the geodes being cut!
  • $1,850 were raised for the Central Valley Honor Flight at week one of the silent auction; week two is still being calculated.

The Greenhouse

  • 2,300 floriculture exhibits were on display.
  • 2,150 Blue Ribbons were awarded.
  • 315 different types of roses were on display; that’s double last year’s number!
  • 1,000 different varieties of plants and flowers were on display.
  • 11,000 people visited the Lorikeet Encounter.


  • 79 animals were adopted during the Fair.
  • 34 cats
  • 45 dogs
  • The most animals adopted was 15 on Saturday, October 12! 

All-Animal Races

  • 280 All-Animal Races were run.
  • In total they ran 5.1 miles!
  • Honey Bun was the fastest animal this year.
  • Most improved race time award was given to a lamb named Fleece Lightening!

Save Mart Wine Garden

  • 2,645 bottles of wine were consumed at the Fair!

Old Tyme Kettle Corn

  • 158 lbs. of boba was used.
  • The most popular boba flavors were Taro, Mango and Thai Ice Tea
  • Over 900 lbs. of kernals were popped for their kettle corn.
  • Most popular flavors of kettle corn were original and caramel.

Country Fair Cinnamon Rolls (3 stands)

  • 32,000 lbs. of flour were used.
  • 10,833 lbs. of cinnamon and sugar were used.
  • 6,750 lbs. of cream cheese were used.
  • 14,452,200 lbs. of butter were used.
  • 41 year old family business!
  • 500 cinnamon roll sundaes were sold.
  • 4,200 cinnamon maple bacon bombs were sold.

Fat Franky’s Funnel Cake

  • 650 lbs. of sugar used
  • 4,600 lbs. of dough used
  • 7,095 funnel cakes were sold at the Fair.
  • Strawberry was the most popular funnel cake topping.

Jerky Hut

  • Whiskey BBQ was the most popular flavor.
  • Carolina Reaper Extreme Hot was the 2nd popular flavor.
  • 80 bags of alligator jerky was sold.

Dutch Bros

  • 129 lbs. of coffee were used during the Fair
  • 670+ gallons of milk were used

 Suck It Up

  • 75 cheesecakes on a stick were sold.
  • 450 gallons of ice cream were used.
  • 883 frozen bananas were sold.

Kettlecorn (MKM Concessions)

  • 15,000 lbs. of kettle corn was sold.
  • Pink popcorn was the most popular flavor.
  • 200+ cotton candy burritos were sold.

NEW Acevedos’ Posteria Gourmet, LLC

  • The strawberry cream cheese croissant was the most popular item ordered.
  • 500 large cake pops were sold.
  • 300+ lbs. of chocolate was used.

NEW Dole Whip

  • 1,119 Dole whip floats were sold.
  • 285 frozen bananas were sold.
  • 583 pineapples were used.

Pepe’s Mariscos

  • 520 lbs. of shrimp used for the ceviche
  • 790 lbs. of shrimp used for the shrimp cocktail
  • 1,110 lbs. of carne asada was used
  • 1,200 limes were used
  • 175 lbs. of cheese was used
  • 3,900 agua frescas were sold
  • 210 lbs. of salsa was used (and consumed!)

Churro Zone

  • 2,500 churros were sold during the Fair.
  • 1,250 with filling; chocolate was the most popular filling flavor.
  • 150 Oreo Churros were sold; a very popular Fair item.

Chicken Charlie’s

  • 1,000 lbs. of bacon-wrapped chicken legs were sold.
  • 1,240 cotton candy ice cream sandwiches were sold.
  • The most popular deep-fried item were the Oreo cookies; 12,000 were sold!
  • Over 6,000 lbs. of chicken tenders were used.
  • “Enough Buffalo Chicken Chimichangas were sold to reach the top of the Empire State Building” – straight out of the mouth of Tony Boghosian.

Wellmon Concessions

  • 282 Angry Chicken Sandwiches were sold.
  • Hot Pastrami Sandwich was the most popular item; 1,237 were sold.
  • 300 lbs. of sweet pork was used for the Dirty Fries and the Pork Sandwiches
  • 1,310 Dirty Fries were sold.

Sharky’s Fish Fry

  • 359 Lobster Corn Dogs were sold
  • 197 coconut shrimp were sold.
  • 2,887 Lobster fries were sold; it was the most popular Fair item!

Fabe’s Gelato

  • 5,000 scoops of gelato were served.
  • 2,150 churros were sold
  • Cinnamon was the most popular churro
  • 4,521milkshakes were sold
  • Oreo was the most popular milkshake
  • 898 milkshakes were sold on Sunday, October 13 – a record day!
  • 1,510 puffle cone sundaes were sold.
  • 901 specialty drinks were sold.

Corn Stars

  • 16,560 ears of corn were purchased.
  • 2,328 orders of corn in a cup were sold.
  • 960 baked potatoes were sold.
  • 220 hot cheeto baked potatoes were sold.

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Abundant new attractions and events, big savings, great weather and diverse entertainment credited for attendance increase

Fresno, CA…October 17, 2019… The Big Fresno Fair’s Board of Directors, Management and staff are thrilled to announce the successful completion of the 2019 Big Fresno Fair, which ran October 2 -14. The Big Fresno Fair is the largest event from Sacramento down to the Los Angeles county line, and this year proved to be the safest Fair to date thanks to added security measures such as increased surveillance cameras, walk through metal detectors, increased Fresno Police Department presence both inside and outside the Fair, as well as other continued safety measures from horse racing track to the carnival.


“We are grateful to our community who continues to show up and take part in this annual tradition,” said John C. Alkire, CEO of The Big Fresno Fair. “Whether that’s as a Fairgoer, an exhibitor or performer – we are proud to showcase the best of the best to our incredible community and are humbled to have closed the gates on another successful Fair – our 136th in this very same location and the same time of the year.”


Big discounts and excellent weather played a big role in the unaudited 0.03% increase in attendance over last year’s record-breaking year. The 2019 Big Fresno Fair welcomed 632,590 people from throughout the Valley and beyond to enjoy this longstanding tradition based upon the unaudited attendance report. The Fair saw big crowds in the Paul Paul Theater for the Table Mountain Concert Series with six sold out shows (Christian Nodal, Tower of Power & WAR, Keith Sweat, Ice Cube, Festival del Mariachi and Willie Nelson & Family), plus solid numbers at the Jr. Livestock Auctions (10/5 and 10/12) helped generate more than $945,000 in sales for 4-H/FFA students with top-offs still coming in. Racing fans showed up in big numbers for the nine days of live horse racing excitement, generating a 5.84% increase in on-track handle! Then the Fair also hosted it’s first-ever Food Fight competition (10/3) which had 18 new food entries from concessionaires! The record number of new food items matched with the big crowds at the 2019 Big Fresno Fair contributed to a 13% increase in concessions.


The BIG Fair numbers continue. In the words of Fair CEO, John C. Alkire “here’s the real Paul Harvey version of the 2019 Big Fresno Fair numbers” that contribute positively to the community.


  • Provides $71.1M in economic impact to Fresno County annually
  • Hired more than 900 people, not including those hired by the carnival and individual food stands
  • This year 5,800 pints of blood were collected at the “Pint for a Pass” Blood Drive held August 14 – September 22 in partnership with the Central California Blood Center, bringing the 10-year total to more than 91,000 pints of blood collected which had the potential to save up to 273,000 lives!
  • $87,000 in scholarships were given out to Fresno County 8th – 12th grade students as part of the Fair’s 4.0 & Above Program held in partnership with the Office of the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools along with valued sponsors Friends of the Big Fresno Fair, EECU, Toyota, Chevron and iHeart Radio. Plus, Ceasar Contreras, a 12th grader from Washington Union High School won a brand new 2020 Toyota Corolla; a $19,600 value!
  • $15,000 in cash prizes were given out at the Fair’s Big Band Review participants. Edison High School and Clark Intermediate walked away with top honors as the sweepstakes winners!
  • The new “Fill the Need” Day on Thursday, October 10, got people into the Fair for just $4. Half of that $4 ticket was to benefit Valley Children’s. A total of $37,496 was raised and will be donated!
  • A total of 28,879 Fresno County parents, teachers and students toured the Fair on four different days this year as part of the 27th annual Fair Education Program, an educational free field trip.
  • “Feed the Need” Food Drive Effort
    • 91,000 lbs. of food was collected at the “Feed the Need” Food Drive at Fresno State. Those who brought 10 cans got a free Fair admission ticket good for any day of the Fair. All food collected went to the Fresno State Student Cupboard. With the food collected, roughly 70,543 meals were provided to students in need.  
    • Then on the final day of the Fair at the Save Mart & FoodMaxx “Feed the Need” Food Drive the community showed up big to donate their five cans of food to get into the Fair for free! The result was 91,790 lbs. of food collected, which all went to the Poverello House, providing approximately 71,155 meals for those in need in our community.
    • This brings the 11-year total of food collected from the overall “Feed the Need” effort to 1,974,803 lbs. of food collected providing 1.53 million meals to those in need!
  • 1,880 people were taught life-saving CPR techniques at the American Ambulance booth at the Fair!
  • The fish from Catfish Falls and the Meyer’s Water & Wildlife Tree’s “Cloud Tank”, two big attractions in the Table Mountain Rancheria Park, were harvested and donated to the Poverello House and Stone Soup, providing a protein rich meal for more than 1,000 people.


The Fair Management team continued to stay focused on providing affordable ways for families to attend the Fair, providing a plethora of discounts both pre-Fair and during the Fair. Popular pre-Fair discounts included the $30 Season Passes available at O’Reilly Auto Part stores; up to a $7 discount for Unlimited Carnival Ride Wristbands and $2 off admission at participating Save Mart & FoodMaxx locations. Fair-time discounts included $5 Wednesday (10/2); “Fans & Followers” Day & $2 Carnival Rides (10/3); Table Mountain “The Club” Members Reward Offer (10/3) Seniors’ Day presented by Humana (10/7); Special Interest Day (10/7); CalViva Health Half Price Tuesday (10/8); Sun-Maid Kids’ Day (10/9); $4 “Fill the Need” Day (10/10); and the Save Mart & FoodMaxx “Feed the Need” Food Drive (10/14).


Whether it was the new attractions, competitive exhibits, free entertainment, live horse racing, carnival rides, Table Mountain Rancheria Park, Fair food or concerts that brought people out, there was no doubt that the community sure does love their Big Fresno Fair. Many families continue to choose to stay local for their entertainment and the Fair provided them a family-friendly, affordable and safe entertainment option. Planning is already underway for the 2019 Big Fresno Fair, which will run October 7 -18 and marks the 137th year of this valued tradition.         


# # #

The Big Fresno Fair Unveils Life-Size Statue of Jose Ramirez And Receives Donation of his World Title Belt to Add to the Champ’s Fresno County Historical Museum Exhibit

jose ramirez and his new statue

 In front of a crowd of 60 community leaders, family, boxing fans and Big Fresno Fair leadership, the life-size statue of José Ramirez was revealed in the Fresno County Historical Museum at the Fresno Fairgrounds. The statue was commissioned by Fresno artist Debbie Stevenson. Adding to the celebration of the day, Avenal local, John Bowers was on hand to donate José’s champion belt on behalf of another Avenal native, Chris Gamber who purchased it and decided to donate it to the Fresno County Historical Museum to be displayed as part of the exhibit.

Sharing heartfelt remarks about the undisputed WBC and WBO Super Lightweight World Champion were Fresno County Board Supervisor Sal Quintero, Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer, The Big Fresno Fair CEO John C. Alkire, Agent and Promoter Rick Mirigian, and Manuel Cunha.

When the Champ addressed the crowd filled with his family and fans, he got a bit emotional sharing stories about his start in boxing and the meaning of this exhibit, which he can’t wait to share with his son. 

“Today was an incredible event honoring an incredible person – José Ramirez,” said John C. Alkire, CEO The Big Fresno Fair. “We could not be more proud of the man you are, both in the ring and outside. You are an example for our youth, for us and someone our community is extremely proud of. We could not be more excited for this addition to our Museum for our community to enjoy and for future generations to learn about your impact and legacy – which still continues to be written.” 

Through all the remarks today, one thing was constant, praise for José’s character and determination. In addition to his Valley fans and supporters, praise from his boxing community filled the day. 

“Jose Ramirez’s love for the Central Valley is evident through his many charitable endeavors,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “We are proud of José Ramirez the champion, but even prouder of the man he is outside the ring.” 

John Alkire acknowledged the efforts of Mirigian to make the boxing exhibit in the Fresno County Historical Museum a reality, stating “we couldn’t have gotten all of this memorabilia and created this space without your help.”

“It’s incredible what John and the Fair has done for José – thank you. I hope to see the Museum filled with more items from throughout his career and I am committed to helping how I can,” said Rick Mirigian, Agent and Promoter for José. 

The statue along with the champion belt will be on display in the Fresno County Historical Museum in time for the 2019 Big Fresno Fair, which runs October 2-14. For more information on the Museum go to www.FresnoFair.com/FresnoCountyMuseum 

jose ramirez and family

Big Fresno Fair and Valley Children’s Team Up for Valley Kids

As patients and their families played in a carnival-like setting in the Guilds Hall at Valley Children’s Hospital, leadership from The Big Fresno Fair and Valley Children’s announced an unprecedented partnership on the new “Fill the Need” Day to support Valley Children’s mission to increase access for lifesaving healthcare for the 1.3 million kids living in the region. As part of this effort, the Fair will be offering a special $4 “Fill the Need” admission ticket that is good for Thursday, October 10 at The Big Fresno Fair! Half of all ticket sales for this day will benefit Valley Children’s. Continue reading “Big Fresno Fair and Valley Children’s Team Up for Valley Kids”