By Heather Janssen

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Cal Expo is back and hosting its first family fun event since before the pandemic began.

The more familiar scene on Cal Expo’s fairgrounds included rides, food, and games.

READ MORE: 45 Structures Now Destroyed As Dixie Fire Grows To 244,888 Acres

“It’s different – you don’t get the full fair like you normally would,” said Antonio Carlton, who attended the Butler Amusement Summer Carnival for opening day. He said though it’s not the state fair – it comes close.

“Economically, it was great,” said Matthew Griffith, who brought his family out for a worthwhile and affordable escape. “It was $20 to $30 to get in. Any event, anywhere – it’s just nice to get out instead of staring at our four walls at home.”

The summer carnival is Cal Expo’s first major event in more than a year.

“It brings local economy to us,” said Griffith.

The facility was hit hard with fears of bankruptcy and no events to bring in cash. But still, the site was instrumental in the pandemic serving as a key space for COVID response—everything from swabbing noses to sticking arms.

READ MORE: Man Arrested For Starting Fire Near Thermalito in Butte County

But now, it’s come full circle as fair-lovers want to return the favor with their funds.

“It’s nice to give back to the community you know – not being out,” said Carlton.

It’s a welcome return featuring a fairground full of happy kids.

“All the treats and the rides – they’re very fun,” one little girl said. Her dad, Geoff Joven, said those moments are what matter most.

“Seeing her smile and her excitement – that’s the best time,” Joven said. “It’s why I’m coming here so she can have some fun.”

MORE NEWS: 'It Meant The World To Me': Oakdale Officer Thanks Citizens Who Helped Him After Hit-And-Run

The summer carnival runs through next Sunday. Tickets are only $5, but ride tickets and parking are not included.

Heather Janssen