Moo-ving through San Mateo

Evan Mew / Daily Journal A cowboy leads a herd of cattle down Saratoga Drive to Bay Meadows for the 74th annual San Mateo County Fair.

Ever wonder how long it would take 75 longhorn cattle, 10 Segways, a covered wagon and about 25 horses to travel half a mile down a San Mateo street?

Wonder no longer, as that was the scene yesterday morning from Yates Way, north on Saratoga Drive into the San Mateo Fairgrounds for 30 minutes. The urban cattle drive was a way to bring together agriculture and technology -- two different but important characteristics of San Mateo County -- in time to kick off the start of the 74th annual fair, which opens this afternoon.

Fairs began as a showcase for local agriculture and horse racing. Those traits are still present today, but unique attributes from any given place are also incorporated into the event -- like local technology. The cattle drive was a way to bring together the low- and high-technology of San Mateo County, explained Marie Franko, marketing and promotions coordinator for the San Mateo County Event Center.

Local representatives joined the herd on either horseback or Segway.

For 6-year-old Patrick James Martin of San Francisco, the sight of an approaching herd was a memorable moment. The youngster, donning a shark T-shirt, jean shorts, cowboy boots and a straw hat with a blue sheriff star, recalled almost being stampeded. At the same time, he enjoyed seeing the cowboys who instructed Martin to move to safety.

The experience was new for San Mateo City Councilman John Lee who rode a horse during the 30-minute adventure. Lee is thrilled to have the fair back in town and hopes locals will take advantage of the activities.

This year brings a variety of activities to choose from live performances to hands-on agricultural exhibits. Diaper-bearing babies will race, as will piglets named after celebrities. Barbecued and deep fried food will be available near the carnival stage. On-site acts will offer everything from magic to percussion inspired by everyday items.

It's also worth noting a number of theme days.

Monday, Aug. 11 is kids day -- which means children under 12 are free. Tuesday, Aug. 12 is all about seniors who will not need to pay an entry fee before 3 p.m. Teens pay $5 to get in until 5 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 15. The entry fee will also get teens a coupon for $5 off a carnival ride wristband. The fair wraps Sunday, Aug. 17 with Dia de La Feria Preciosa -- a celebration of Spanish influence. This year's activities includes an amateur ballroom dancing competition.

The fair opens daily at noon except for opening day when doors open at 4 p.m. It closes at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays and 11 p.m. other days. For more information about the fair visit

Heather Murtagh can be reached by e-mail: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.

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