By Audrey Hill, Feature Contributor, Valley Ag Voice
On Monday May 17th, the Kern County Fair Board met to decide the fate of the 2021 Kern County Fair. Fair board member Lucas Espericueta made an impassioned plea to his fellow directors to hold a fair in 2021. “Mask mandates are being lifted, and our lives are going back to normal. It seems like we are giving up… I was hoping East of midway we could have a smaller fair and not lose that culture in our community.” Despite his efforts, the remaining board made a motion to postpone the 2021 fair until 2022, in effect canceling this year’s fair. However, it is confirmed that fully in-person livestock shows will be held as normal for this year! Masks or a vaccination card will be required at the entrance and hand sanitizer booths will be sprinkled throughout the premises to insure a safe and healthy environment for everyone. Staff will also be routinely cleaning high traffic areas, making sure COVID-19 health protocol are met and kept during the two weeklong livestock shows.
Currently the County of Kern is using the fairgrounds at a vaccination site and has extended their contract to continue to do so multiple times. If the county chooses to extend this contract again, it will interfere with fair dates, and the fair will not be able to proceed. Therefore, the decision at the May 17th meeting to extend the county contract through the end of September in effect prevents the fair from utilizing the property. Fortunately, the livestock area and show rings will not interfere with the vaccination area, and the “okay” has been given to proceed with in-person livestock shows this upcoming fall.
I spoke with some young showmen and parents about their thoughts on an in-person show this year, and the major consensus is full of excitement and readiness. Shana Williams, a community leader of West Bakersfield 4-H, shared that “it will be great to have judges able to judge the sheep and goats like previous fairs. The kids are really looking forward to being back in the show ring.” Her daughter, Paisley Williams, also a member of West Bakersfield 4-H and dairy goat showmen, says she is “most excited to see [her] fair friends again and showing [her] little Nigerian Dwarf goat that was born last year.” Although they may not be able to experience the entire fair like usual, showmen, parents and supporters are all very excited to continue to show in-person.
The Kern County Fair Auction may be a different story. Last year, livestock shows and the fair auction were held virtually with video submissions and virtual bidding in place of shaking hands and auction blocks. However, considering the substantial amount of positive feedback regarding the virtual 2020 auction, the fair has decided to incorporate virtuality into this year’s auction as well.
“Consumers are so conditioned to shopping online these days that the option for buyers to take part in the auction, from wherever they are located, opened the door to new buyers,” stated Chelsey Roberts, KCF head of marketing. “We received a lot of positive feedback from buyers who found it way easier than trying to figure out how to participate in the normal in-person auction.” A final plan outlining what pieces of the auction will be virtual and what will be in person will be worked out soon in the upcoming KCF board meetings.
Some may be weary of fully in-person events, but many others know a real livestock show means the world. It’s unfortunate that we still cannot get fully back into the swing of things, and for those not involved with livestock, this will be another year without our wonderful Kern County Fair. Fortunately, progress is starting. We might not have a whole fair this year, but we are lucky to have a piece of it and there is only more to come.