Kern County Fair

By Audrey Hill
Student at Cal Poly

Audrey Hill
Audrey Hill

The status of the 2020 Kern County Fair is yet to be set in stone, and the plans rely on what the state and Governor Newsom will conclude about our mid-pandemic situation. For many, concern lies in questions like: will the rides, concerts and food vendors be open? Will the animals be brought to the fairgrounds? What about livestock shows that so many have been working and paying toward? Will we even have a fair? The recent June KCF board meeting set out to provide information relieving these concerns and to try to answer some of the public’s questions.

Before jumping into the larger concerns raised by COVID-19, the board first clarified and approved some smaller reports for the June meeting. A motion was made for the approval to take out a Paycheck Protection Program loan, which passed. There was a discussion about when and under what committee the board should discuss increasing the price of admissions and parking to boost revenue, and ultimately decided to table the motion until the July meeting where its wording and language could be refined. The livestock board commented that important entry dates are coming up soon and encouraged any who plan to enter livestock in the fair to read the 2020 livestock catalog available on the KCF website where due date information can be found. Also, the board upheld the strict enforcement of livestock due dates and explained that these dates are in place because of state mandated animal ownership regulations, and by allowing a showman to be exempt from such due dates, the fair risks violating a state rule which could be protested, leading to the showman’s disqualification. Ned Dunphy and many other board members commented that it is a hard decision to make but they must deny any late entry requests, however “with regret.”

Above all, the Kern County Fair Board has to decide whether or not to move forward and schedule an in-person fair by July 20th, even though all plans can be shut down by the state. They can either stay on the safe side and plan for no in-person fair, which some see as the most plausible option as we move closer to the deadline, or the board members can plan for an in-person fair that meets all requirements while hoping the state can enter Phase 4 of Governor Newsom’s plan by then. As most would guess, the board is hoping for an in-person fair and planning for both outcomes. However, as Dawn Stornetta mentioned in the meeting, “it’s a double-sided sword.” If plans are made for an in-person fair, the board risks disappointing the citizens of Kern County if the ultimate decision by the state is no in-person fair. Nevertheless, there will still be disappointment if the board decides to wait until next year for a real fair. Both routes risk disappointing the people of Kern County, but ultimately, no matter what type of planning is made, the state holds the final word.

While planning for both options, fair or no fair, the best they can, the board found that a lot of public concern exists, and additional planning is needed for livestock. The livestock plans were tabled until a second June board meeting. This meeting will be held on June 29th via Zoom.

Additionally, the board discussed its options for poultry and rabbits, as well as virtual auctions and shows. If the amount of entries for these animals is not significantly lower than previous years the usual barn that houses the rabbits, Barn 12, will not be large enough to comply with social distancing measures. If Barn 12 is too small for the amount of entries, Dawn Stornetta, the KCF livestock supervisor, expressed the idea of a “Show and Go.” Implementing this would allow the birds and rabbits to be shown and immediately taken home. This would provide a safer show experience for the showman and the animals while keeping the show in-person. Another option is to move everything to a virtual show. For market animals, video submissions have been working well, but it cannot accommodate for breeding shows. Unfortunately, that leaves a significant portion of the rabbits in question. Aside from COVID-19, the rabbits have their own recent virus outbreak with their own social distancing measures in place. As this item was tabled, the June 29th meeting will give options for a solution. Aside from just poultry and rabbits, there are many concerns and complications with a virtual show and even more with a virtual auction.

Virtual auctions and shows have been successful for other county fairs, but there are still some questions about how they will work for our fair. How will ownership of the animal be verified? Will all breeding shows be cancelled? Auctions require accurate weights, a quality grader and vet check of the animal; who, when and where will this be done? What happens when an animal doesn’t pass a vet check? If a showman doesn’t want to auction their animal off virtually, do they have to? Also, because we are one of the only auctions that offer live pick up, there are complicated problems associated with this that are completely unique to Kern county. Dawn Stornetta said that “buyers are not going to be able to take [the animals] home live, with the exception of the replacement heifers,” and the live pick up option our fair has implemented in the past will have to wait until we can have an in-person auction. These complications are lengthy, and none have an easy answer, but the board plans to work out these problems on June 29th.

In the concluding comments of the June meeting, many board members urged the public to be patient and considerate. Ned Dunphy said that the board “will do what [they] can” and will “move mountains” to get the fair up and running. David Torres made similar comments and asked for the public to “be patient, it’s our first pandemic.”

Ms. Hill is an Animal Science student at Cal Poly (SLO) with plans to become a large animal veterinarian. She grew up in Bakersfield spending most of the time in the ag community, and she’s proud to call it her home. “I’m honored to represent Kern County’s small ag at home as well as at Cal Poly.”