‘We’re starting to feel the energy’ as opening of fair approaches | TheUnion.com

‘We’re starting to feel the energy’ as opening of fair approaches

It was only three weeks ago when Chief Executive Ed Scofield was casting an anxious eye at dirty skies and some lean preliminary numbers for participation in this year’s Nevada County Fair.

But since then, the wildfires have been tamed and the skies have returned to a familiar blue hue, clearing the way for what is now looking like a busy fair week.

“We’re starting to feel the energy,” Scofield, who will be presiding over his final fair, said Monday.

The fair kicks off at 10 a.m. Wednesday and ends at 11 p.m. Sunday at 11228 McCourtney Rd. in Grass Valley.

Scofield said the fair has had more than $60,000 in pre-ticket sales, which is more than was sold at this time last year.

“I have two cashiers and my bookkeeper selling tickets right now,” he said while looking at a line of about 20 fair-goers. “We’re going to have a good day.”

Advance tickets cost $4 and can be purchased from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. today. Adult tickets will cost $8 starting Wednesday.

Another key indicator of fair attendance is the number of exhibits, Scofield said. On July 11, when the skies were obscured by smoke from several wildfires, only 5,000 exhibits were entered, 2,000 fewer than usual by that time the previous year.

Now, fair participants have entered more than 10,400 exhibits for categories such as livestock, clothing and food.

“That’s as high as it’s been in years,” said Scofield, who has been the fair’s chief executive for 25 years.

Fair attendance was around 93,000 last year, which was the continuation of a steady decline from the days when it was well over 100,000 for the five-day event, Scofield said.

“We’ve been in the decline-mode for the past ten years,” he said. “My theory is that every time a kid leaves school, we lose attendance.”

Even if attendance is not what it once was, the fair schedule is filled with literally hundreds of events this year.

Some of the highlights include the ag mechanic auction at 5 p.m. Friday and the junior livestock sale at 8 a.m. Sunday. Last year, youth from the 4-H and the Future Farmers of America earned more than $520,000 in the two auctions, according to Scofield.

The arena will feature a different event daily at 7 p.m. It’s bullriding Wednesday, a rodeo Thursday, truck racing and monster trucks on Friday, free style motor-cross riders on Saturday and the demolition derby Sunday.

Live music, karaoke, magic tricks, carnival rides, an American Idol competition and other entertainment also are part of the fair’s smorgasbord of events.

One thing Scofield doesn’t have to worry about is losing his estimated 200 part-time temporary workers due to the recent executive order signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The governor’s order requires some state agencies to lay off part-time and temporary workers until a state budget is passed. The fair, while a part of state government, is a separate entity, Scofield said.

“If we were to lose those people, we’d be in a world of hurt,” he said.

For more information or to look at schedules, go to http://www.nevadacountyfair.com.

To contact Staff Writer Pat Butler, e-mail pbutler@theunion.com or call 477-4239.

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