Appropos of the column about the county fair, here is some San Joaquin Fair trivia:
—A popular exhibition at the 1871 Fair was “the skeleton of a humpback whale that had been killed off Lower California by a bomb.” The 90-foot skeleton, reported a contemporary newspaper, ”was, without question, the most wonderful exhibition that was ever made in Stockton.”
—The star of 1857 was Mrs. E. Benson, who proudly displayed a 141/2-inch Gloria Mundi apple.
—Thomas B. Parker made the papers with “one 40-pound cabbage that was nearly three feet across its open head.”
—A New York cattleman showed off a prize-winning Durham bull: the magestic Fourth Duke of Northumberland. “He was such a magnificent creature, a person could gaze on him for hours and not tire of his beauty,” a reporter rhapsodized.
—A patient at Stockton’s “insane asylum” stole the show at the 1862 fair with his fabulous multi-colored coat bristling with keys, padlocks and scrap metal, which he had tailored for his marriage to Queen Victoria.
—In 1878 an Oakland marksman shot cigars out of an assistant’s mouth.
—A “learned pig” held forth in 1880.
—Gawkers gee-whizzed at a cabin built of Lodi watermelons in 1887.
—His majesty the king of Belgium graciously stopped by in 1919 while visiting California.
—The Human Comet daredevil set himself afire and dove 100 feet into water in 1926.
—Fat Emma, at 680 pounds, turned heads in 1933, but not as well as Laurello, “able to revolve his head entirely around until he looked one way and walked the other” (1935).
—Three words: Jerry Colona’s Horsecapades (1945).
—The San Joaquin County Fair helped spread good farming practices throughout California (obviously; the cash value of this county’s crop alone has topped $ 2 billion) but connoisseurs of the odd and obsolete instead fondly recall Robby from “My Three Sons” (1965), Baby Anna, Richard Nixon’s elephant mascot (1968) and the exciting annual black light floriculture competitions.
—Bozo the Clown (1956).
For this trivia I am indebted to “Our Fair 1860-2000: An Illustrated History of the San Joaquin County Fair,” by local historian Luisa Nella.