As a 4-H kid who loved the annual county fair growing up, I have a special appreciation for our state’s fairgrounds and the people who operate them. I am especially grateful for the evolution of these properties into a critically important part of our infrastructure to support local communities in emergency situations.
In 2020, the impact of COVID-19 negatively affected the ability of fairgrounds to generate revenue. Revenue comes from holding mass gatherings for social, commercial, and community events, including an annual fair. The annual fair event is the primary revenue generator for a fairground to cover the expenses for the event, and it funds the costs of daily operations and payroll for the year. At the same time, fairgrounds continued as a part of our emergency network, serving as base camps and shelter during fires, COVID-19 testing sites, and food bank distribution sites.
The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted fairgrounds but also has created an opportunity to explore new models to respond to diverse community needs while continuing to serve as critical emergency response infrastructure.
I am very grateful for these state assets that mean so much to their local communities and for the incredible dedication of the managers, directors and staff who help so many under a variety of emergency situations.
I appreciate Deputy Secretary Arturo Barajas and the great Fairs & Expositions team led by John Quiroz for finding creative ways to support local fair boards to safely proceed with virtual livestock exhibitions and auctions in support of youth projects.
Although we can’t know when, we do know fair season will return. In the meantime I salute the Network of Fairs as we work together to stabilize funding and look for more efficient and effective ways for the operation of these important facilities.