Nevada County group seeks to hold a fair on private property
Special to The Union
In response to the Nevada County Fairgrounds’ announcement that this year’s county fair has been canceled due to COVID-19-related public health risk, some residents are in the process of organizing a privately hosted fair.
A rally to raise awareness of this plan will be held 10 a.m. to noon today in the parking lot of the Neal Street Safeway in Grass Valley.
Eric Christen, a leader in a movement to hold a private fair, said he and his fellow organizers believe the virus’ low prevalence in Nevada County alongside summer weather would indicate a low public health risk for the event.
As of now, the group’s plan is to hold a fair on a 340-acre private plot of land which has been volunteered by an unnamed member of the community.
“It is guaranteed available and we’ll be announcing the address relatively soon, but it is easily accessible for Nevada County residents at around 15 to 20 minutes from the fairgrounds,” said Christen.
“A lot of work is going to have to go into this, and that is what the rally is about. Seeing who would like to help, and getting the word out,” he said, adding that organizers are in the process of compiling a list of necessary components, including security and restroom facilities.
Christen expressed that, because the event is planned to be held on private property, they don’t believe law enforcement will consider it a concern. He added that the Sheriff’s Office will be made aware of the plan.
“As we’ve seen around the state, tens of thousands of people can gather pretty much wherever they want and not be at risk of law enforcement, so we’re not really too worried about that,” said Christen, in reference to recent protests on police brutality held in California and nationwide.
As soon as the announcement was out, Christen and four other people “swung into action”, growing their group to about a dozen people — private citizens and representatives of local nonprofits — by the next day.
He described the organizing group as continuing to grow, and said he was not at liberty to identify other involved individuals or organizations at this time.
“But it’s all local, all Nevada County residents, and when the time comes we’ll have a list of businesses supporting it and how it will work,” said Christen, who also helped organize a May 22 rally in Grass Valley to reopen businesses. “I know there are a lot of questions, and I would just encourage people to show up to the rally and have them answered.”
According to Patrick Eidman, CEO of the Nevada County Fairgrounds, the fair’s board and staff made the cancellation based on public health orders, citing the unlikelihood that the state would reach Stage 4 of reopening — which would allow mass gatherings such as fairs and festivals — by the date of the fair.
“The rally is not affiliated with or supported by the fairgrounds,” Eidman said in an email.
Eidman encouraged the community to work with the fairgrounds and its partner organizations to support agricultural youth through an online sale, and expect plans for a modified, drive-thru Treat Street event which will support local nonprofits.
He emphasized that the fairgrounds’ board and staff consulted with local and state public health officials as well as organizers of other fairs and large events, ultimately coming to a conclusion they had wished to avoid — that the fair could not be held safely.
“Public health and safety should be the highest priority for any responsible event organizer and that is especially true during a pandemic when there is no preventative vaccine or effective treatment,” said Eidman.
Organizers of the privately planned fair cite the loss of an in-person auction of livestock as a major issue with the fair’s cancellation, with Christen raising the concern that the involved families will most likely not be able to draw the same amount of income without the spontaneity of a live event.
Eidman responded in an email to this concern, saying fairgrounds staff are working with the Nevada County Fairgrounds Foundation and Nevada County Livestock Producers on the planned online sale. The Nevada Union and Bear River Future Farmers of America boosters, the Nevada County Agricultural Youth Boosters, and the Nevada County Farm Bureau are among several local organizations which have shown support for the sale so far.
“The generosity the community shows to these kids won’t change because of the format of the sale, and frankly, being online opens the sale up to a whole new group of buyers that weren’t able to participate in person,” said Eidman.
Victoria Penate is a freelance writer for The Union.
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