Cal Expo has been a staple in Sacramento for over 50 years, serving as the home for the California State Fair and other events.
Over the years, Cal Expo has seen limited changes, but one of the area’s notable additions was the California letters at its main gate.
Those letters previously stood at the entrance of Disney California Adventure Park for nearly a decade. The iconic California letters were donated in 2012 to Cal Expo and California State Fair, a non-profit organization that supports the annual summer event.
The Disney addition was dedicated in a ceremony at the 160th annual State Fair in 2013. The massive letters, which stand at 11 feet, 8 inches tall each, were installed 11 days before the 2013 fair opened.
The letters were removed from Disney California Adventure during a billion-dollar renovation at the time, which included the creation of Cars Land, according to Sactown Magazine.
As California Adventure was near completion of its expansion, then-Disneyland Resort President George A. Kalogridis said it was important to find an appropriate home for the iconic California letters.
“The letters were very popular with millions of guests over the past decade, and Cal Expo is a fitting destination to continue their legacy,” Kalogridis told Sactown Magazine in 2012.
But the California letters aren’t the only connection Cal Expo has with Disney.
The monorail at Cal Expo is one of two permanent monorail systems in California with the other being at Disneyland, according to ABC10. Since its construction in 1967, the monorail at Cal Expo has been open for public use every year during the State Fair, allowing guests to see the fair from above.
Former Cal Expo CEO Rick Pickering explained the inspiration for Cal Expo’s architecture in an interview with the Sacramento Bee.
“People don’t realize that when this place was originally designed, (the state) asked Walt Disney to help,” Pickering told the Sacramento Bee in 2017. “That’s why we have a monorail.”
The California State Fair has operated at Cal Expo since 1968 and was formally dedicated by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan (who was also a host for ABC’s live broadcast of Disneyland’s opening day in 1955).
Before Cal Expo officially opened, it took six years for the fairgrounds to be completed.
Regan’s predecessor Pat Brown is often credited with the initiation of Cal Expo, signing a bill in 1962 that brought the State Fair to its current location.
“I think because of the fact that Walt Disney and Governor Pat Brown worked together to create Cal Expo, it’s only fitting that these (California) letters get renewed and repurposed up here,” former Cal Expo and California State Fair CEO and general manager Norb Bartosik told Sactown Magazine. “I think that’s the greatest part of it.”