Controversy over email on eve of fair board meeting
July 16, 2013
An email sent by Nevada County Fair CEO Sandy Woods asking elephant ride supporters to show up at today's board meeting regarding a highly controversial contract with Have Trunk Will Travel has opponents in an uproar.
The June 20 decision by the fair board to continue with the contract will be revisited during the 4 p.m. board meeting at the fairgrounds. On Saturday, Woods sent out an email noting the controversy and asking supporters of the elephant rides to attend today's meeting at Ponderosa Hall.
"We are writing you to first inform you of the situation, and secondly to invite you to please join us at the meeting in support of having the elephants at the Fair," Woods wrote. "The animal rights activists have gauged an active campaign encouraging those to attend who don't support the elephants at the Fair, and we feel that it is important to have representation on the other side as well. Many, many community members have thanked us and shown support of having elephants at the Fair, and we are encouraging those in support to be as active as those in opposition. This is purely optional — feel free to join us if you feel the need to support. We appreciate that you may choose not to attend the meeting, and that's fine as well. If you are able to attend, please wear light blue or denim to show your support."
The email quickly began making the rounds among local animal activists, and then onto Facebook.
"Now we have the board staff lobbying for a particular position in the face of overwhelming opposing public opinion," said Scooter's Pals founder Susan Wallace in an email to The Union, adding that it was "embarrassing" for the community.
But Woods defended the email, saying that it was issued in response to those expressing support for the fair board.
"It was sent out to numerous people in response to their queries as to what people could do to support the fair, and to support having an elephant exhibit at the fair," she said. "We want our community to be informed as to the activities on the fairgrounds. Certainly the animal rights folks have been busy supporting and publicizing their cause, and we hope they respect us informing the community of how they can support the fair."
Nearly 40 people spoke at the board's last meeting in a hearing that stretched for almost two hours. But none of the fair board members made a motion to cancel the contract with Have Trunk Will Travel, which is providing two elephants for local children to ride at the fair Aug. 7-11.
The decision by the board members to allow the contract to stand without any discussion drew a great deal of vocal displeasure with nearly 100 people attending a recent organizational meeting to protest the rides.
"The Nevada County Fair is a celebration of who we are as a community," Woods said Monday. "It's the time for us to come out and shine and have friendly competitions.
"There is so much wonderful stuff going on at fair. There's live music; there's Treat Street; there's people baking pies and knitting sweaters," she added. "It's not all about the elephants."
To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4229.