Tracing Tracy Territory: Return to June revives county fair
by Sam Matthews
Jun 14, 2013 | 1510 views | 0 0 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It’s been a few years, but I made my way back to the San Joaquin County Fair this week.

I wasn’t alone. Sparse fair attendance during last year’s fair run in September has been replaced by a major increase this year.

Moderate temperatures, a return of 4-H and FFA livestock exhibitors compared with last year and new ideas in entertainment have helped swell fair participation.

On arrival Wednesday afternoon, I watched local FFA members show off their swine and dairy cattle in showmanship competition. The two Holdener sisters, Tatum and Katy, of the Tracy High FFA showed how to raise and show championship swine.

And then there were the All-Alaska Racing Pigs. I watched the miniature porkers race around a small track while spectators cheered. I could see why the races, with a lot of hoopla tossed in to add interest, are one of the fair favorites.

I didn’t spend a lot of time checking out the carnival, but it seemed as though it had a goodly number of rides located in a clean asphalt setting.

Horse racing is absent from the fair this year. And while some people would like to have racing coupled with the other parts of the fair, I really didn’t miss it all — a far cry from the time when “a day at the races” was an annual rite of summer.

In recent years, the draw of racing — and betting — has diminished with the advent of off-track betting and the development of nearby Indian casinos.

And, of course, there are county fair culinary delights. My trip to the fair included munching on the three basic fair food groups: beer, corn dog and ice cream cone. Somehow, my digestive system survived.

San Joaquin County is fortunate in having a real county fair, and I’m glad it’s making a comeback.

A young cellist at the top

The National Youth Orchestra will embark on an international tour next month, and the daughter of former Tracyite Glenda Gentry Mathes will be among the orchestra members.

Kayla Mathes of Albuquerque, N.M., is a cellist with the prestigious youth orchestra, whose members have been selected from throughout the U.S.

The 17-year-old student at Albuquerque’s Bosque School became a member of the New Mexico Youth Orchestra before being named to the National Youth Orchestra of the U.S.

She and other orchestra members have been practicing at Purchase College State University of New York in Westchester County in preparation for the international tour, which begins July 13 with a concert at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

Two concerts will follow in Russia — in Moscow and St. Petersburg — capped by a final concert in London at Royal Albert Hall.

Some Tracyites may remember Kayla’s grandfather, Glenn Gentry, a veteran meat department and grocery store manager in our town.

• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234, or by email at

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