Ashanti, Scooby at this year's 50th State Fair
By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Editor
The fair, opening today at the Aloha Stadium parking lot, targets a diverse family audience and helps the Honolulu Jaycees finance year-round community projects.
Spidey, Scooby and Ashanti arrive in the heat of the summer fun season, giving the fair an edge of excitement and timeliness.
Spidey brings his web of wonders June 8 and 9. There'll be a bunch of Spider-Man merchandise, too; he's riding the coattails of a big movie launch a few weeks ago.
Scooby is a 5 1/2-foot-tall replica who'll hang out at the ring-toss concession. He's the big prize this year, and you won't find this sizeable pooch at your nearby Kmart or Wal-Mart toy counters. Scooby figures in a movie due June 14, and the fair folks have two container loads of the stuffed animal keepsake waiting to be escorted home.
Ashanti sings June 2 in a tent venue next to the beer garden. She'll be joined by Ja Rule and Amanda Perez. Ashanti arrives while her "Foolish" song and self-titled CD sizzle on the pop music charts.
"We try to anticipate what the public wants," said Scott Fernandez, president of E.K. Fernandez Shows, which partners with the Jaycees in presenting the annual funfest. It takes more than cotton candy, the carousel, the Scooter rides and the food to whet the appetites of fair-goers.
Partnerships helped cinch Spidey and Ashanti, with KHON-Fox 2 involved in the Spider-Man appearances and KIKI-FM (I-94) shepherding the Ashanti performance. Additionally, KCCN-FM is staging an "Overdrive Live" bill June 8, showcasing local entertainment.
Adrian Di Tucci, management vice president with the Honolulu Jaycees who is heading up the fair for the Jaycees for the fifth time, said the fair offers "a clean and safe environment for families. It has everything you need food, entertainment, musical acts and a little amusement for all ages."
The fair is the Jaycees' biggest annual fund-raising event, benefiting a number of community endeavors such as the Emphysema Hui, which the Jaycees have adopted to provide annual "care" packages at Christmas, and the Hobbies Hawai'i Fair, which promotes education through games and hobbies that are alternatives to drugs.
The event dates back to 1930, when Hawai'i was reeling from the effects of the Depression, said Donna Smith, E.K. Fernandez vice president. The local chamber of commerce launched a Hawaiian products exhibit at the old National Guard Armory downtown to boost interest in local goods, and 33,000 attended.
The Jaycees assumed sponsorship in 1937, and renamed the activity the 49th State Fair in 1949, anticipating that Hawai'i would become the 49th state.
The name again was changed in 1959, the year Hawai'i entered the union as the 50th state. Alaska had became the 49th state.
"It was the 49th State Fair only once," said Di Tucci, who recalls that the trade fair in its earlier life was staged at Sand Island, then Magic Island, then McKinley High School. "It's still a great family activity, and it's done quite well over the years. After Sept. 11, I had some concerns about attendance, but after seeing how other fairs and carnivals have done in Waimanalo, Punahou and Star of the Sea (Church), I think we're going to do well."
Attendance averages about 150,000 over a four-weekend run, said Fernandez. Crowds dipped one year to 130,000, mostly because of economic conditions coupled with bad weather, but peaked at 200,000 in 1992, said Smith, "the year we bought the Giant (Ferris) Wheel and operated it for the first time that year."
Besides the Jaycees, other nonprofit community groups participate in other facets of fair work and fund-raising. The Chinese Jaycees are sub-contracted by the Honolulu Jaycees to man a food booth.
The fair is a maze of rides and games, offering something for everyone.
"The Scooter (bumper-car rides) are the answer to road rage," said Fernandez. "Young and old, everyone can drive to let it all out."
The Wave Swinger and the Music Express are popular with younger folk, because of the thrills and motion.
While it takes a bit of acumen to master some games, he said, the Popperoo, a dart-and-balloon game, is fairly simple "and almost everyone leaves with a prize."
The fair also seeks out novelty acts, and, in seasons past, animal acts.
"E.K. Fernandez started entertaining the families of Hawai'i in the 1930s," Smith said of the pioneering founder of the family-run business. "He is credited for bringing many firsts in entertainment to the Islands the circus, rodeo, ice shows, vaudeville acts, amusement rides."
"The public needs and wants different types of entertainment," said Scott Fernandez. Which is why, over the years, some specialty animal attractions were part of the menu, like mules diving into water and sharks in a tank.
"We like the animal acts and will have them at the 50th State Fair in the future," said Smith (there are none this year). "The public enjoys them, too, and there's usually an educational element in addition to the entertainment. While there is always a little opposition to any animal act, the (ones) we've brought to the fair are all very well cared for and perform at major fairs throughout the country."
Reach Wayne Harada by e-mailing email@example.com, phoning 525-8067 or faxing 525-8055.
Everything you wanted to know about the 50th State Fair but it never occurred to you to ask so we're telling you:
Most popular rides: Scooter, Wave Swinger, Music Express
Best buy: Pepsi Day, when admission is 50 cents plus an empty Pepsi can
Best bargain: $15 wristband, good for all rides during selected day and night hours
Average time spent at the fair: Three to four hours
Best time to go: Depends on your priorities. Days are hot (wear sunscreen), nights are crowded but cooler.
Dress code: Think casual, think comfort; walking shoes are a must (they protect the feet better than rubber slippers).
Food for thought: Everything from popcorn to hot dogs to plate lunches to shave ice to saimin will be available. Sage advice: Don't go on the roller-coaster with a queasy stomach.
Easy rider: The Skyliner ride provides some rest for the feet and gives you a bird's-eye-view of the fairgrounds.
Time out: There will be a rest tent in the kiddie ride area, and it's there for a purpose. You shouldn't jam and cram your riding, gaming and eating in a single hour.
The fair by the numbers:
- $24,000 What it costs to provide electricity and water for the fair during the month's run
- 4,968 Number of gallons of diesel fuel required for 138 hours of the fair's run
- $3 Cost of a bag of cotton candy
- 4.5 to 5 tons Amount of sugar used during the run of the fair for cotton candy, candied apples and other food concessions
- 400 Number of people working the concessions and operations on a typical day
- 25,000 Number of people going through the turnstile daily
- 4,000 Number of bags of cotton candy sold during the run
The name attractions:
- Spider-Man appears 1-3 p.m. and 4-6 p.m. June 8 and 9 in the dining tent.
- Ashanti sings from 6 p.m. June 2, in a tented area next to the beer garden. Doors open at 4 p.m. (Additional admission).
- Shaggy performs sometime this afternoon for a high school audience selected in a Radio I-94 contest, before the opening of the fair. Free for students of the winning school.
- Moto-X extreme sports figures Brian Deegan, Nate Adams, Jeff "Ox" Kargola and Drake McElroy performances at 1, 4 and 7 p.m. daily at a Moto-Cross site. Shows run 20 minutes, followed by an autograph session.
- Mapapa Acrobats six performers from Kenya, in a show of tumbling, dancing, balancing and other acrobatic skills perform at 2, 5, 8 and 10 p.m.