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California State Fair opens Friday in big return

After two years off, annual ag celebration spotlights food and fun

The State Fair Farm showcases California's top crops. (Photo courtesy California State Fair)
It’s back! After a two-year absence due to Covid restrictions, the California State Fair returns Friday for its annual agricultural celebration of the Golden State.

From July 15 through 31, the fair will fill Cal Expo with such traditional favorites as nightly concerts, livestock exhibitions and horse racing.

An extra emphasis will be placed on food as the fair continues to rebrand itself as “California State Fair and Food Festival.” (The festival aspect was added in 2019.) More than 30 food vendors will participate in the fest, which includes a competition for best fair food. (Winner of 2019 Best in Show: Bacon Pecan Cinnamon Rolls by Country Fair Cinnamon Rolls.) In addition, cooking challenges and demonstrations will be held daily.

Also back this summer is the State Fair Farm, a growing display of California’s top crops.

“Here, guests are able to get a Save Mart Passport and learn about more than 70 crops grown in California, learn all about pollinators and their importance in California agriculture, as well as pet a live sturgeon in the aquaculture display,” say the fair organizers. “Receive water-saving tips during California’s drought by visiting the water-efficient gardens sponsored by the Department of Water Resources and get gardening tips from our Master Gardeners booth.”

Yes, the UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners of Sacramento County will be back, answering patrons’ gardening questions.

In addition, the fair is offering a downloadable “Ag Awareness Activity Book” and a virtual version of the State Fair Farm’s Insect Pavilion, spotlighting pollinators. Find both here: .

New this year is a “clear bag” rule. Only clear plastic bags, limited to 12 by 12 inches, will be allowed. Except for mini clutches (under 5 by 8 inches), no purses, totes or non-clear bags will be admitted.

Cal Expo is located at 1600 Exposition Blvd., Sacramento. Fair hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fridays-Sundays. General admission tickets are $14, $12 in advance. Senior admission (age 62 and up) is $12, $10 in advance. Youth admission (ages 5-12) is $10, $8 in advance. Children under age 5 admitted free. Parking: $15.

Details and advance admission tickets: .


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Sept. 24:

This week our weather will be just right for fall gardening. What are you waiting for?

* Now is the time to plant for fall. The warm soil will get these veggies off to a fast start.

* Keep harvesting tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons and eggplant. Tomatoes may ripen faster off the vine and sitting on the kitchen counter.

* Compost annuals and vegetable crops that have finished producing.

* Cultivate and add compost to the soil to replenish its nutrients for fall and winter vegetables and flowers.

* Fertilize deciduous fruit trees.

* Plant onions, lettuce, peas, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, bok choy, spinach and potatoes directly into the vegetable beds.

* Transplant cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower as well as lettuce seedlings.

* Sow seeds of California poppies, clarkia and African daisies.

* Transplant cool-weather annuals such as pansies, violas, fairy primroses, calendulas, stocks and snapdragons.

* Divide and replant bulbs, rhizomes and perennials. That includes bearded iris; if they haven’t bloomed in three years, it’s time to dig them up and divide their rhizomes.

* Dig up and divide daylilies as they complete their bloom cycle.

* Divide and transplant peonies that have become overcrowded. Replant with “eyes” about an inch below the soil surface.

* Late September is ideal for sowing a new lawn or re-seeding bare spots.

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