FINAL PREPARATIONS FOR THE FAIR
Telephones rang off the hook inside the fair office Wednesday, shrill above the hubbub of folks buying passes, grabbing maps and figuring out where they should be.
In his office, Randy Hatfield, CEO of the Del Norte County Fair, alternated between his cell and office phones, haggling with someone about portable toilets. Outside, workers transformed the fairgrounds into an amusement park, scrambling to set up vendor booths, amphitheater seating and carnival rides before the gates open this morning.
"It's just as crazy as last year," Hatfield said. "The day before and the first day is always the toughest part. We may not get out before midnight tonight."
In its 120th year, the "Fair By the Sea Since 1893" will feature many of the same attractions as last year, but also plenty of new ones. More than 60 commercial vendors and 15 food vendors will display their wares, some returning to Del Norte after being away for several years, Hatfield said. While there aren't many other fairs nearby to attract spectators, some vendors have chosen to stay closer to home, he said.
"It costs quite a bit to get here," Hatfield said.
Rides will also be a big draw, bringing in about a third of the fair's revenue, he said.
"We kept the same pre-sale price for quite a few years," Hatfield said. "We haven't increased it for quite some time and we don't plan on it. Other attractions raise the price. That hasn't helped them."
While ride operators and vendors scrambled to get set up Wednesday, local 4-H, Junior Grange and Future Farmers of America members wrestled to get their charges situated. There are fewer animals this year than last year, about 150 compared to last year's 200, Hatfield said. Thirty-nine pigs and 26 sheep will be on display as well, he said.
With her pig Lorenzo settled, Junior Grange member Tvshiina Jacobs, 13, and her father set about getting him fed. Tvshiina said Lorenzo, who weighed in at 107 pounds in May and is now an estimated 250 pounds, is one of the first pigs she has raised.
"It's fun, but it's a lot of work," Tvshiina said. "When he was little I fed him three times a day. Now I feed him two times a day."
In the neighboring stall, Spazzy, Maiah Calleja's pig, guzzled water out of a pipe in one corner of her pen. Born in April, Spazzy had a pre-fair weight of roughly 100 pounds in May, Maiah said. Maiah's goal was to get Spazzy's weight to 215 pounds or greater so she could participate in the auction.
"I would say she weighs around 200 pounds now," Maiah said, adding that she and Tvshiina will find out how much their pigs weigh during the fair. "This teaches us a lot of responsibility."
Now in her third year of showing pigs, Maiah said she received $1,000 for the first animal she auctioned off and $900 for the second animal she raised. Some of her earnings went to feed, the rest went into the bank.
"I'm saving for college," Maiah said.
In the poultry barn, April Brock and her 11-year-old son Trevor washed nearly two-dozen feed and water containers. Brock said she brought her hens to the fair as an adult exhibitor. Her son Trevor is an independent exhibitor, but will probably join 4-H soon.
Brock said she started raising chickens about 20 years ago, participating in 4-H as a child and getting back into chickens after college. She and her son currently raise 20-25 chickens, primarily for their eggs.
Trevor said they are also the proud owners of one guinea fowl, although they haven't yet found a use for the bird's pink and purple-colored eggs beyond an Easter display.
"We sell the extra eggs, but it's never a break-even thing," Brock said. "When people buy local pasture-raised eggs the price is helping the person defray the cost of some of their expenses. The chickens are also raised in a lot better environment. (They're) allowed to run and play and be in the sunshine."
Reach Jessica Cejnar at email@example.com.