Nevada County Fair Board responds on elephant issue
Tom Browning and Sandy Woods
Regardless of where you stand on the issue of elephant rides at the Nevada County Fair, we thank you for your passion and for your belief in this community and the support of the Nevada County Fair. Through the emails, letters, phone calls and testimony we’ve received, we’ve seen a common ground – we all believe that the Nevada County Fair is one of the best in the state and that it is a unique event that draws our community together and strengthens our ties. The 2013 Nevada County Fair will be no exception.
Truly, we have listened and continue to listen to the feedback – both the opposition of the elephants at the Fair, and to those that support the Board’s decision to invite the elephants to the Fair. To better explain our decision to welcome the elephants to the Nevada County Fair, our decision was based on the following facts:
• Funds raised from Have Trunk Will Travel (HTWT) will go towards elephant conservation through the International Elephant Foundation, which has raised tens of thousands of dollars to save the endangered Asian elephant.
• There is a video, produced by Animal Defenders International, making the rounds on social media. It’s an edited and doctored version of many hours of filming. Both the Association of Zoos and the United States Department of Agriculture did investigations based on the video and found no evidence of cruelty or abuse. The USDA has acknowledged HTWT’s proactive approach for their elephant exhibit, their commitment to animal welfare and public safety and their outstanding compliance history over the years.
• Dr. Linda Peddie, HTWT’s elephant veterinarian, states in her letter that the Johnsons are the most conscientious and ethical managers of any species with which they have dealt. People who have visited the HTWT compound have reported that the facility is clean, well maintained and designed to nicely accommodate the elephants.
• We are aware that there were distortions of the truth at the open meeting. For example, it was stated that the internet petition contained 2,300 signatures and that most of them are from Nevada County. In reviewing the signatures of the petition, 92 percent are from outside our county with many coming in from other countries. Nevada County residents responding to the petition number 189 which is about 1/5th of 1 percent of the population of Nevada County.
• In all exhibits and activities that we bring to the Fair we look at the potential risk and associated liability and assess the measured risk. Based upon Have Trunk Will Travel’s excellent safety history we have determined that it is a safe exhibit for the Fair.
The directors chose to uphold the Have Trunk Will Travel contract which was approved at the April 23, 2013 Board meeting because, in weighing the testimony, they did not believe there was sufficient factual information to void the contract.
Since the meeting, the Fair has received numerous emails some of which have been threatening. While we respect many animal rights groups, we are concerned with animal rights groups from out of the county who are attempting to harm the Fair by encouraging vendors and sponsors to boycott. We respect the First Amendment rights provided by the United States Constitution. Citizens who wish to express their views during the Fair are welcome to do so at the free speech zones outside Gate 1 and Gate 5. Alternatively, special interest groups may purchase a booth on the inner grounds. Booth applications and copies of the Fair’s free speech policy are available at the Fair’s Administration Office. The nature of the Fair is to provide diversity as evidenced by the participation of our various political parties.
We are blessed to live in a free country where we all have the freedom of choice. The Fair has a strong legacy of providing human and animal interaction from the livestock barns to the Draft Horse Classic. It’s our customer’s choice whether they visit the barns, or not. It’s our customer’s choice whether they attend the rodeo, or not. Yes, there will be elephant rides, but the elephant rides are a small part of the Fair. We respect our customer’s choice to visit the elephants, or bypass the exhibit completely.
Regardless if you visit the elephants or not, while you are at the Fair, plan a visit to the many other amazing things happening – a zip line, an exotic bird show, a hypnotist, thousands of community exhibits, barns full of livestock, musical entertainment on a number of stages, daily food contests, a special events tent and a carnival area full of rides. And, don’t forget about Treat Street – where our local non-profits make some of the best food in the fair industry and infuse hundreds of thousands of dollars back into our community!
As pointed out by The Union on June 22, “few fairs are held in such high regard by their community and serve as such a top tourist attraction for those in neighboring counties, as the Nevada County Fair … The fair’s economic impact on our community goes far beyond the contracted companies operating the exhibits, the gate receipts that buoy the fair’s bottom line or even the local merchants who stand to make money, as the livelihood of a large number of nonprofit organizations are dependent upon proceeds from the booths they operate there.”
We wholeheartedly agree! Let’s continue to make our community Fair one of the best in the state! Thank you for your support of the Fair, thank you for your love of this community, and thank you for being passionate in your beliefs. Join us at the Nevada County Fair, Aug. 7-11.
Tom Browning is president of the Nevada County Fair Board. Sandy Woods is chief executive officer of the Nevada County Fairgrounds.
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