For over a century, The Big Fresno Fair has been an important part of the Central Valley community – providing longstanding traditions for families and creating lasting memories. In its 132-year history,The Big Fresno Fair has continued to evolve and improve, providing new and exciting things for Fairgoers to enjoy while holding true to the foundation of its existence – showcasing its rich agricultural heritage and the talents of Fresno County residents.
Friends of the Big Fresno Fair – the Fair’s non-profit 501 (c)(3) Foundation, has been working behind the scenes for more than a decade to raise millions of dollars to build permanent structures like the free family park area complete with nine free attractions for families to enjoy including a life-sized pirate ship, Fort Fresno and Catish Falls. They have also helped transform the live racing facility into one of the best tracks on the racing circuit with a remodeled paddock, as well as the addition of the VIP Suite and Luxury Deck. Friends of the Big Fresno Fair was also instrumental in funding other improvement projects throughout the grounds such as the addition of the Pavilion Area and construction of the new, permanent Butler, Chance and Kings Canyon entrance gates.
The work of the Friends of the Big Fresno Fair is ongoing – continually finding ways to help preserve and protect our Fair's history while continuing to improve the Fairgrounds for future generations to enjoy and supporting the Fair’s various educational programs. Education programs such as the Fair Education Program, are critically important to the Valley youth as it provides local students (many of whom would not be able to afford to do so otherwise) the opportunity to visit the educational exhibits at the Fair free of charge - including seeing farm animals (many for the first time) and learning about the rich agricultural heritage of our region on display in the Agriculture Building. Mirrored to the mission of The Big Fresno Fair itself, the Friends of the Big Fresno Fair strive to make the Fair a place to celebrate, educate and have fun. Click here to see all the projects Friends of the Big Fresno Fair has supported over the years. There are also many exciting new projects on the horizon that Friends of the Big Fresno Fair needs your help to support; see more information below.
Friends of the Big Fresno Fair operates with a nine-person Board and boasts 60 members. (Click here to view the Friends of the Big Fresno Fair Board members.)
The Big Fresno Fair Museum
This year marks the 133rd anniversary of The Big Fresno Fair. During its history, the Fair has been an integral part of the culture and traditions of Central Valley residents – and still holds the title as the largest annual event in the region! To celebrate the rich history of the Fair, The Big Fresno Fair Museum was first revealed in 2013. Located in O’Neill Hall, the Museum walks you through the history of The Big Fresno Fair from the oldest Blue Ribbon given in 1909 to the first-ever built Cotton Candy Machine in 1921. It features over 2,600 historical items – including 42 historical photos by Claude C. “Pop” Laval, each photo containing a description with historical facts about its moment in the Fair’s history. In 2014, a documentary-style video, Heritage Talks, was added to the Museum that features stories from past Building Superintendents, Board of Directors, longtime staff members and concessionaires, plus horse racing supporters – all recalling their memories of The Big Fresno Fair and the role it played in their lives. Their testimonials and stories are what brings Heritage Talks and, in turn, the Museum to life! In 2014, The Big Fresno Fair received the highest award possible in the fair industry - Western Fairs Association's Merrill Award for the Museum and the Heritage Talks documentary video.
In September 2014, an agreement was struck with the Fresno Historical Society to bring the iconic Fresno Courthouse Cupola to the Museum as part of a long-term loan agreement. The cupola is now at the Fairgrounds undergoing a complete restoration, which will be completed in 2016 if sufficient funds can be raised. A fundraising campaign is now underway to help pay for the extensive restoration needed for the cupola. Individuals and organizations who are interested in donating to these restoration efforts are asked to contact the Friends of the Big Fresno Fair at (559) 650-3228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The work of the Friends of the Big Fresno Fair is ongoing and involvement from the community is welcomed and needed. Get involved in anyway you can and be part of preserving this rich Valley tradition and helping grow the Fair for future generations to enjoy.