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Tough lives for the fair’s towering trees

Even the promise of an ice-cold lemonade or a frosty cone can’t quite stave off the August sun that blazes down on Treat Street during the Nevada County Fair.

The goodie-packed lane was once shaded by towering ponderosa pines, but years of fairground construction, insect attacks, and whirling winter winds have taken their toll.

Without the trees, the sun bakes fairgoers. And after two years of declining attendance, the last thing Fair CEO Ed Scofield and his staff want are sun-scalded visitors.



“It really came home hard with the storms of late 2002,” Scofield said. “And the beetles are an ongoing issue.”

About 40 trees were toppled by two major storms in the winter of 2002.




The loss of trees has caught the attention of current Rotary Club President Patti Ingram, who is also the mayor of Grass Valley. Ingram plans to devote a portion of proceeds – about $5,000 – from the group’s annual barbecue to help reforest the fairgrounds.

The Nevada County Fairgrounds is a hard place for a tree to live. The ground is trampled, water is scarce, and construction work over the years has dislodged roots and trees.

“Just about everything we do out here is not good for the trees,” Scofield admitted.The weakened trees are easy prey for storms and fungus-carrying beetles. And they’ve also had some bad luck.

Don Schmidt, who was charged with maintaining the grounds from 1972 to 1981, recalled planting about 12 dawn redwoods, which, because they are deciduous, shed their leaves each fall. He checked on the trees one winter, only to discover they were mistakenly chopped down by lawn crews who thought they were dead.

Scofield credited Schmidt for realizing the importance of reforestation, a practice that was neglected in the 1960s. Scofield has been struggling to continue Schmidt’s legacy.

Trees are expensive, Scofield pointed out. Spindly sticks, though affordable, rarely survive. Sturdier trees cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.

Many community groups, most recently the Rotary Club of Grass Valley, have stepped in to support the fairgrounds.

Ingram said she wanted to help the fairgrounds where she spent summer days as a child. When she heard of the need for trees, she volunteered the Rotary Club to help preserve “California’s most beautiful fairgrounds.”

How to help attain a cooler fairgrounds

Did you know that the coolest spot on the Nevada County Fairgrounds is beneath the two fruitless mulberry trees near the Horse Office? That’s according to Fair CEO Ed Scofield.

How can you help make the fairgrounds cooler?

Attend the Rotary’s second annual Community BBQ at the Nevada County Fairgrounds from 5 to 8:30 p.m. Some of the proceeds will go to help reforestation at the fairgrounds.

Tickets are $15 for those older than 11 for a barbecue chicken and tri-tip dinner. Children under 10 can have a hot dog meal for $5. Dinners include a Baskin-Robbins ice cream cone.

Five community members will be honored for their work in public service, health care, vocational services, substance abuse in youth, and community service.

Fire engines, patrol cars and other emergency vehicles, including a helicopter, will be present. Children can play in a bounce house, climb a climbing wall, and participate in a Boy Scouts rope challenge.

There will be raffle drawings, musical entertainment by Kurtis Bershaw, a silent auction and a full bar.

Proceeds will also be donated to the Community/Senior Center and the Rotary Polio Eradication Project.

For more information, call 272-0913 and leave your contact information.


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