Once again, I was invited to help award prizes to the hobbyists showing off their phenomenal collections of antiques and collectibles at the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton. You've got until July 6 to view some amazing, as well as amusing, objects.
One of this year's exhibitors -- a first-time entrant -- unanimously won a "Best of Show" ribbon for her artful display of Campbell Soup paraphernalia. This wondrous group of "advertiques" fit in perfectly with the theme of the annual bash, which is "Taste the Red, White and Blue."
Other collections given a nod by the judges were those that featured lace making, vintage children's clothing and an incredible diorama comprised of whimsical salt and pepper shakers.
Scores of other cases fill Building "O," the site of the exhibits. There's a batch of "Swanky Swigs" -- the colorful juice glasses made from the 1930s to 1950s. Lisa Bunn, of Oakland, snagged a first place for this collection of tumblers that once held Kraft cheese products. The glasses boast perky tulips, Scottie dogs, polka dots and sailboats, among other patterns.
For the record, there are contest guidelines. Folks are advised to clearly label objects and provide reasons for collecting their beloved treasures. Participants who followed these rules generally came out on top.
Other display cases protected some amazing collections such as old kitchen gadgets, items saluting Lake Tahoe, some stellar Disney souvenirs and a large array of Mobil Oil collectibles referred to as "petroliana" by those in the know.
Check it out for yourself at the 102nd Alameda County Fair. The fairgrounds are located in Pleasanton just off Interstate 680. Take the Bernal Road exit. Follow east to Valley Avenue. Enter through Gate 8 or Gate 12.
The fair runs from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Admission: $10 adults, $8 seniors, $8 children ages 6-12, children younger than 6 admitted free. General parking is $10. Details: 925-426-7600 or www.alamedacountyfair.com.
They came. They saw. They evaluated. I'm talking about the recent visit of the appraisers associated with the wildly popular PBS series "Antiques Roadshow."
On June 7, thousands of curious folks -- including lots of loyal readers -- descended upon the crowded yet air-conditioned Santa Clara Convention Center. It was the opportunity of a lifetime to find out whether a valued family heirloom, or flea market find, was worth much.
Earlier in the year, the 2014 "Antiques Roadshow" tour across America was announced. Die-hard fans could enter a random drawing for free tickets to meet the antiques gurus -- some of whom have become media darlings -- who tell the truth about our worldly possessions.
An astounding 22,367 requests for tickets to the Santa Clara event were received -- the largest amount for any of the eight cities being visited.
In May, about 3,000 fortunate people were notified of their win. Recipients got two passes. Each person was allowed to bring along two items for review by the 70 to 80 experts on hand.
On the day of the event, lucky recipients lined up with paintings, clocks, lamps, musical instruments, carpets and furniture, plus bags and boxes brimming with all manner of precious cargo. It was an eye-popping sight.
From what I hear, there were some fabulous finds. But we'll have to wait to find out the news. The segments taped at the Convention Center, and at several places around the Bay Area, will be edited and turned into three hourlong shows scheduled to air in 2015.
By the way, the Los Gatos couple I wrote about in May -- Gail and Craig -- found out they didn't have anything rare or unusual. Still, they were far from disappointed. The giddy duo had the experience of a lifetime, and they were glad for it.
That's the way I suspect it was for most visitors. A trek to the set of the "Antiques Roadshow" can best be described as being priceless.
The recent hullabaloo over California Chrome, the colt who nearly won horse racing's coveted Triple Crown, has created a renewed interest in the "Sport of Kings." Legions of "Chromies" wanted "America's Horse," the chestnut-colored favorite from a humble background, to forge ahead and make history.
With the release of Philip Von Borries' work, "RaceLens: Vintage Thoroughbred Racing Images" (Pelican, $26.95), readers will relive the excitement of many incredible races of yesteryear. With a little imagination, you can almost picture the mud fly in this 176-page book replete with black-and-white images and an equally alive text. Von Borries is an acclaimed sports journalist with a 40-year career, plus two other books to his credit.
Shop for a cause
The American Society Discovery Shop at 1103 Branham Lane in San Jose is having a "dazzling collectibles" sale from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.
The goodies up for sale -- all donated to the group -- include vintage tools, old kitchenware, statuettes, metal collectibles and more. Money raised benefits cancer research. Details: 408-265-5535.
End of an era
Carla Laemmle, the niece of Universal Pictures founder Carl Laemmle and undoubtedly one of the final links to Hollywood's silent film era, died June 12. She was 104.
I mention Laemmle's passing because the Chicago-born actress-dancer made a number of appearances in early horror movies -- a genre much-adored by film devotees. Connoisseurs consider pictures such as the 1925 classic "Phantom of the Opera" made at Universal to be among the finest movies of that type ever produced.
Posters, in particular, are coveted by serious buffs and bring in big bucks. This past July, a vertical poster called an insert commanded $262,900. It showed off a scary Boris Karloff from 1931's "Frankenstein."
The next time you see "Dracula" (1931), starring Bela Lugosi, listen to Laemmle's voice. She utters: "Among the rugged peaks that frown down upon the Borgo Pass are found crumbling castles of a bygone age ..."
Contact Steven Yvaska at email@example.com.