Scofield bids fair-well
When Ed Scofield walks relaxed and smiling down Treat Street at the Nevada County Fairgrounds he waves and calls out to nearly everyone by name.
This week marks the last fair under Scofield’s direction as the chief executive officer. The fair is both a celebration of the year’s hard work preparing for the event and a community good-bye party for the 63-year-old fair leader.
“This has been my life for the last 26 years, so yeah, there’s a lot of emotions that go with it,” Scofield said Thursday.
Scofield is running for the District 2 seat for county supervisor, which represents south county, and will hand over the baton to fair Deputy Manager Sandy Woods at the end of the year.
Thursday morning, Scofield was found making his normal rounds, stopping to chat with longtime draft horseman Nolan Darnell and friends running food booths. By a radio clipped to his lapel, Scofield stayed abreast of the busy fairgrounds while he, directors and his wife Carol prepared for the evening’s Nevada County Fairgrounds Association fundraising barbecue.
Scofield grew up in Grass Valley and applied to the fairgrounds management position when he was 37 after operating a hardware store in San Jose.
Beyond preparing for the week-long fair, the position requires handling dozens of events throughout the year, including Music in the Mountains concerts, the annual Father’s Day Bluegrass Festival, WorldFest and numerous other activities held in the main building every weekend. He is especially proud of the Draft Horse Classic and Country Christmas Faire.
Community support and the fairgrounds’ pine-sheltered location makes it one of the most sought-after county fairs in Northern California, Scofield said.
“We’re the big dog in Northern California,” Scofield said. “Yesterday was a great example. It was just hopping out here. The energy was something else.”
The fair has changed with the times, and while maintaining its roots in local agriculture, the fair has adopted newer technology such as online registration, something that has boosted sales, he said.
“I’m not the IT guy, but we’re recognizing you’ve got to get with it … or you’re going to be left behind,” Scofield said.
Of the nine Mother Lode county fairs, Nevada County is the only one to tie into an online blog, Scofield said. Text message competitions and digital photography exhibits are also popular among fair-goers, while traditional favorites including preserves, baked goods and the Cornish pasty contest remain staples.
“It can become a lost art, but Nevada County has a lot of people who still cherish that tradition,” Scofield said. This year’s fair had 10,400 contest entries.
New this year is a credit card machine, allowing fair-goers to purchase tickets with a card.
“It’s not a 25 cent fair anymore. It costs some dollars,” Scofield said.
While admission at the gate went up a dollar this year, pre-sale tickets were offered at half price, triggering a boom in sales at a time when the economy is forcing people to seek out discounts.
Last year, pre-sale tickets totaled $23,550 compared to more than $51,000 this year, Scofield said.
“Our pre-sale numbers have been out of sight. We had double lines at one point, out to McCourtney Road,” Scofield said.
A recorded 13,491 people bought tickets at the gate the first day of the fair, but it is unknown how many attended with tickets they bought in advance.
“Based on the crowds last night, it had to be better than last year,” Scofield said.
During the past decade, attendance has declined as children grow up and leave the area and enrollment at area schools drops.
Weeks before the fair begins, it’s not uncommon for fair staff to put in seven days a week working into the evening hours.
“You have to be careful you’re not burned out by the opening day,” Scofield said.
Fair week means days that start at 7 a.m. and end long after midnight. Scofield recalls disasters such as broken water lines that flooded the arena. More than once, he has spent the night in his fair office.
“You live and breathe it,” he said. “There’s nothing else. That’s what I’m going to miss.”
To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4231.
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