CEO handles the rush before opening day
The Del Norte County Fair opened its gates Thursday to the onslaught of families and children scrambling around the carnival rides and booths.
Layton Scott, 5, grabs one of his chickens from their cage as his mother, Heather, watches Wednesday at the fairgrounds. Del Norte Triplicate/Bryant Anderson
Fairgrounds CEO Randy Hatfield opened the gates earlier this week to the rush of carnival workers and vendors dashing to prepare for the four-day run of fun.
The event will attract thousands of visitors and likely recoup the $150,000 it costs to put on the show.
Wednesday was a whirlwind for Hatfield, dealing with requests and helping to solve problems for vendors, livestock handlers, exhibitors and carnival workers.
There are 15 food vendors at the fair this year.
“Ten showed up today at the same time,” said Hatfield on Wednesday afternoon while working to get a forklift to move a pizza vendor’s trailer about 6 feet.
An electrician was discussing power issues with a Wing King vendor who had to move his booth and supplies a few feet to accommodate the pizza vendor.
There wasn’t a power source strong enough for the Wing King booth, so it was likely to be uprooted and moved a second time.
“They all show up today and they want it yesterday,” said Hatfield.
It seemed for about an hour stretch that someone was tugging at Hatfield’s ear every minute needing help with a problem: the cleanup crew needed a golf cart, the Internet wasn’t working in one of the buildings, a key was missing to another building.
“Every one of my guys is being pulled five or six different directions at the same time,” said Hatfield.
The forklift arrived and the plan was set in motion to move the trailer. Hatfield left his crew with a word of advice before hopping into a golf cart and heading to the livestock area.
“Give them a hand and make it work,” said Hatfield.
The vendors are important to the fair, they pay good money for their space, and it’s necessary to make sure all issues are addressed, he said.
Del Norte High FFA member Wade Mayes and his Narragansett Turkey. Del Norte Triplicate/Bryant Anderson
Pigs were standing in line to be weighed while Hatfield fixed the scale.
“Everybody lives by the scale,” said Hatfield. “It’s part of the market program.”
There are about 200 animals including cows, pigs, chickens, goats and rabbits, and about half are expected to be sold at auction. They all arrived at the fairgrounds Wednesday.
Children from the local 4-H and Junior Grange members raised the auction animals according to rigorous weight standards to ensure a high quality of meat for buyers who typically spend “well over market price,” Hatfield said.
The animals must be a certain weight, then also gain specific amount of pounds per day to qualify, he said.
“It’s not easy to have a market animal,” said Hatfield. “There’s an investment and no guarantee.”
About five animals each year don’t qualify, he said.
The meter on the scale was repaired and off Hatfield went to scan the carnival area on the midway.
There are 21 rides and 15 games, Hatfield said.
Several rides still needed to be assembled, and canvas covered the ground of the games area.
The carnival workers began arriving with their equipment Sunday, but a majority poured in the past two days and began setting up, Hatfield said.
The Del Norte County Fairgrounds retains a percentage of sales from every activity except informational vendors and commercial exhibits, Hatfield said.
“It behooves us to try to have an excellent show,” said Hatfield.
The concert, rodeo and destruction derby always draw big crowds, he said.
The fair’s rodeo is one of the best around because, in large part, of the rodeo committee, Hatfield said. It has been voted the committee of the year for the past five by the California Cowboys Professional Rodeo Association.
And it was able to get 40 sponsors for the rodeo this year that will cover a majority of the costs, he said. The committee also draws in better cowboys and cowgirls, increasing the quality of the show, he said.
“If you have a bad year with the fair it can be devastating,” said Hatfield, noting state funds no longer help local fairs.
The fair is a major part of the operations at the fairgrounds though not the only revenue source. The faciity generates about $250,000 from rentals throughout the year, he said.
“We’ve been fortunate the community comes out and really supports the fair,” said Hatfield.