After seeing various county fairs around the state canceled over the last few weeks, it wasn’t much of a surprise on Tuesday when it was announced the Mariposa County Fair would be canceled this year.
But that doesn’t make it any less disappointing for the community, which looks forward to the event — one of the biggest weekends of the year — every fall.
The announcement was made by Mariposa County Health Officer Dr. Eric Sergienko, who was briefing the Mariposa County Board of Supervisors on the latest Covid-19 pandemic information on Tuesday morning.
“I met with them yesterday. They made a decision to cancel the fair,” Sergienko said of a meeting he had with fair officials.
“The board voted last night to cancel the fair,” added fairgrounds manager Brian Bullis. “One of the reasons we made this decision so early was the writing was on the wall.”
The financial impact of canceling the fair to the fairgrounds won’t be as big as some people might think, but it will hurt many local groups who rely on the fair as a fundraising event.
“In a good year, we probably net $20,000 on the fair. It’s a $300,000 production to put on, but it’s not really profitable for the fair,” Bullis said. “But it helps so many other entities: the Rotary Club generates money, the Friends of the Fair, VFW, Bears youth football, all these groups that will miss out on their fundraising activities because fair is canceled. It will be a huge impact on the whole community.”
One of the major components of the fair each year is the junior livestock auction and judging. Many area youth raise livestock to then sell at the fair.
But with the fair being canceled, that component could now also be in jeopardy.
There are basically three options at this point: cancel the livestock auction, hold it virtually or possibly hold it in small groups — if the county is cleared to do so by the fall.
The fate of the junior livestock auction will likely rest on a meeting which was slated to take place Tuesday night among the junior livestock auction committee. The junior livestock auction committee is a separate entity from the fair. It is its own nonprofit. The fair contracts with the committee, which is made up of volunteers.
“We need to decide if we’re going to do a virtual livestock auction or not,” Bullis said. “We want to make the decision so these kids don’t buy animals (if they haven’t already). The only ones that do have to have their animals right now are the beef kids. We have certain dates they have to purchase them by.”
Sergienko said on Tuesday he believed the county “will most likely be in Stage 3 at the time of the fair,” and if so, the auction could be held through groups or gatherings of 50 or fewer.
Whether it’s held virtually or in small groups, the livestock auction, which is looked forward to by so many in the community, won’t quite be the same this year.
“It breaks our heart. I look at the fair as the glue that keeps the community together. It’s our one annual homecoming. You don’t see someone all year but you reconnect and strengthen bonds. It’s a tough deal for me. I wish I could change the situation, but it’s out of our hands,” Bullis said.
Some services could return soon
At Tuesday’s supervisor meeting, Sergienko also provided an update as it pertains to services around the state.
He said Gov. Gavin Newson held a press conference on Monday. At that conference, Newsom rolled out slightly loosened criteria for the state. Because of its low numbers when it comes to Covid-19 prevalence, Mariposa County has been slightly ahead of the state in relaxing some restrictions tied to Covid-19.
“We have gone through that gateway and don’t need to do additional paperwork for additional variance activities for this particular time,” said Sergienko of the county.
Sergienko also said Newsom did announce “three things” that are either already occurring or on the horizon in the state.
• State staff is working on protocol as it relates to places of worship.
Places of worship can now be open for staff, and for pastoral services, while maintaining social distancing. That means counseling sessions where it is groups of 10 or fewer can be held.
“That is good to go for right now,” Sergienko said.
State officials are also “working on guidance” for congregations to potentially reconvene soon.
“This is something I know is eagerly awaited by all of us,” said Sergienko.
Sergienko said he was scheduled to have a call with the California Department of Public Health at 5 p.m. on Tuesday evening to see what the latest details were.
• Another thing that is open now and “was a little bit of a surprise,” Sergienko said, were curbside libraries. Libraries were supposed to open in Stage 3, but are opening at Stage 2.5, Sergienko said.
“We will be working with (county chief administrative officer) Dallin (Kimble) and the library to see if they want to implement that or wait until Stage 3,” Sergienko said.
• The third thing was drive-in movie theaters.
“I know our public works director is thinking about how to do that,” Sergienko said.
Sergienko said coming forth over the next week from the state is more information on industries including barbering, hair salons, film/TV, places of worship and camps and schools.
“I have some questions I’m going to put to the state tonight for things like gyms and other things we know we can put in appropriate mitigation measures,” Sergienko said.
When it comes to Yosemite National Park, which remains closed to the public currently, Sergienko said, “the park is positioned to open no earlier than June 1, but they will align with the state and attempt to open right around the time we go into Stage 3.” (See our related story about the potential to reopen Yosemite in Stage 3 on page A-10 of this newspaper.)