From its first days of horse racing, baking contests and a spelling bee, the Alameda County Fair has become a full-blown, three-week event complete with roller coasters, animal exhibits and the all-too familiar scent of funnel cake. The horses are still around, too.
The fair survived several years' hiatus during and after World War I. During the Second World War, historians say the grandstand was used as a lookout for enemy planes. Since 1972, musicians including Johnny Cash, Tony Bennett, and Donny and Marie Osmund have played in the main amphitheater, according to Victoria Christian in The Alameda County Fair.
At 95 years and counting, Clark Redeker has lived most of that history.
"Being an old geezer I have a lot of memories," Redeker joked. "I have been a part of the growth we had in Southern Alameda County, and I am proud of the friends I made."
He winds his way through the crowds on a motorized scooter, wearing a large floppy hat and a grin. Redeker had his first taste of the excitement of a county fair as a young man working for the San Mateo County Fair.
"In the '30s when the horse racing started, I was going to junior college in San Mateo. I got a job back when money was precious as an usher in the grandstands for horse racings," he said, adding that he earned 50 cents an hour.
After graduating from Stanford University, Redeker moved to Newark in 1940. When he was offered a position on the Alameda County Fair Board in 1955, Redeker says he jumped at the opportunity.
"I had been to several other smaller fairs as a consumer, and you get on the other side of the table, it's a new ball game; and I liked it."
He would hold the position for 50 years.
"I was a city boy, and I met farmers, I met ranchers. I met flower growers!"
The hard work gave way to some moments of levity. Redeker remembers a prank he pulled in one of the fairground fountains.
"I brought a bottle of detergent and some blue dye and dumped it in so it was a big blue bubble bath." he laughed. "It didn't do any damage, but someone thought it wasn't dignified so I didn't own up to it!"
Visiting the fair with his family and riding on a motorized scooter, Redeker falls right into his old habit of chatting with fairgoers and getting their feedback. His daughter Sue remembers coming to the fair when she was young.
"He'd go around, and talk to everybody to get their input," she said. "It was an adventure with dad. This has always been a part of our family."
The Alameda County Fair runs until July 8, in Pleasanton.