While many Colusa County businesses and enterprises were hurt by the coronavirus shutdown, few were affected as much or possibly as permanently as the Colusa County Fairgrounds.
In addition to the cancellation of the Colusa County Fair, in June (the fairgrounds’ largest revenue-generating event), all weddings, festivals, concerts, and other large events have ceased entirely in the era of COVID-19.
Fair officials last week sadly announced that the 2020 Holiday Craft Fair, which has been held the weekend before Thanksgiving for more than two decades, will also be cancelled, and that the 2021 Farm Show is considered, at this point, threatened.
“Public Health could not approve this event (craft show) based on the current restrictions,” said CEO Laura Ford.
Although coronavirus spread in Colusa is relatively low for the population, the state’s current tiered system puts Colusa County’s positivity rate at a level that prohibits public gatherings of any size.
“The fairgrounds is state property,” Ford told the 44th District Agriculture Association (fair board) at their last meeting. “We would have to have Public Health sign off on it.”
Although there is a possibility that Colusa County could move to a tier that would allow a modified (25 percent capacity) or out-door event by November, Ford said it would not be fair for vendors to try to plan for an event that had the potential to be shut down if there were a sudden upward shift in coronavirus positivity rates.
“We made the decision to cancel now out of fairness to our vendors that purchase materials to make products for sale,” Ford said. “We feel that it would not be ample time to prepare the vendors, and I would feel horrible if I had to cancel last minute after they had invested money into items to sell.”
The fair board, however, is still holding out hope for the annual Colusa Farm Show, which has been held annually for nearly 60 years.
The Colusa Farm Show, held the first week in February, is the oldest farm trade exposition in the West. The 2021 World Ag Expo, in Tulare, the largest exposition of its kind, has already announced its cancellation. The Tulare show is traditionally held the second week in February.
Given the Farm Show is still four months away, the fair board is looking at other venue options in the event the state makes a definitive decision that it cannot be held on state property.
Directors said they are anxious about cancelling the Farm Show, and hope to continue the farm trade event, even with limited capacity. They have not ruled out holding the Colusa Farm Show on private property.
“This is just citizens brainstorming, knowing what a source of revenue the Farm Show is, not only to the fairgrounds, but to the county, the community, and to the businesses,” said Fair Board President Michael Doherty.
Fair board members said they fear that if the 2021 Farm Show is cancelled, it could be very difficult to start again in 2022.
“I have a big concern that if we skipped a year, we won’t get it back,” said Director Terry Bressler.
Members also fear the loss of the Farm Show would be an insurmountable blow to fairground coffers, which could affect all future operations.
“It has to happen, or it could be the death not only of the farm show, but of the fair,” said Director Jamie Traynham. ♣