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Fair Foundation moves into high gear post-pandemic

A tree grows for Patty Hickel. The Colusa County Fair Board of Directors gifted the outgoing director who has served on the board since 2014 with a tree at their annual meeting on April 27. From the left, the Fair Foundation Board includes Dan Bailey, Rebecca Myers, Sallie LaGrande, Patty Hickel, Dandy Ottenwalter, President Ben Carter, Shiela Etchepare, Mike Doherty, and Dan O’Connell.

The Colusa County Fair Foundation is roaring back after the pandemic shut down with the planning of two big 2021 fundraisers.

Planning is underway for a public event during Fair week, June 10-13, and the 10th annual Golf Tournament in the fall, Foundation President Ben Carter said at their annual meeting on April 27.

The Foundation also said goodbye to charter member Patty Hickel, who stepped down from the board last month.

Hickel has served on the Board of Directors since the group was formed in 2014, and has been one of 11 directors who have spearheaded the raising of more than $750,000 to help keep the fairgrounds viable as a community resource for future generations.

“The hard work of the board is greatly appreciated by the 44th (District Agriculture Association, the community, and me, in particular,” said Carter. “(They) all work so diligently on behalf of the fairgrounds and the community.”

This year, the Fair Foundation continued with its multi-year plan to remodel Festival Hall, one of the primary exhibit buildings at fairgrounds. The group has spent about $312,000 remodeling the aging facility’s interior, replaced the heating and air conditioning system, and replaced the roof. They also painted the exterior and have plans to remodel the restrooms and kitchen.

The Foundation’s mission is to preserve the heritage and vitality of the Colusa County Fair.

In that mission, they have become a successful fundraising machine and hope in the next few years to paint the Main Exhibit Hall and refurbish the grandstands.

“For every dollar we spent on administrative expenses, we raise $6.88,” Carter said, “Every year that return goes up. In 2019, that return was $7.77. So every dollar we spend, we get $7.77 to put into projects.”

While the Foundation did not have a big event in 2020, lowering that return to $5.29, Carter said the group’s ability to raise that much money since 2014 to put into the fairgrounds and support other community events says a lot about the dedication and hard work of the Fair Foundation’s board and members.

“That’s huge for a little organization like this with 75 members in the county,” he said.

The Fair Foundation, like other organizations, were stymied by the pandemic shutdown but survived better than most, despite the loss of their biggest fundraiser on the Wednesday night before the 2020 Fair, by hosting a gun raffle. They also raised $27,000 from their ninth annual golf tournament in October when golf courses provided just about the only outdoor recreation during the COVID-19 lockdown.

“It was extremely successful and has been increasing in success every year,” said President Ben Carter.

While the 2021 Colusa County Fair has been scaled back this year to just a junior livestock auction and Destruction Derby, the Foundation is currently working on a big fundraiser that will take place during fair week, June 10-13.

Shiela Etchepare, who organized the first major fundraiser called the “Redneck Rodeo” raised over $90,000 with the 2018 “Pigs, Chickens & Pickin.”

Etchepare said the 2021 Fair theme “Barn in the USA” might be ideal for what she is cooking up next.

“We can work with that,” Etchepare said.

The Foundation also plans to present their annual Heritage Award at this year’s Fair to the Colusa Western Days Committee, Leon and Frances Etchepare Family, and David Zwald.

“Those three entities were selected last year by the board so we want to publicly honor them this year,” Carter said.

Fair week will also include the annual Fair Parade, hosted by the Lions Club, on June 11, and a “Fair Around the Square” event and street dance on June 12, hosted by the Colusa County Arts Council.

Hickel, who will remain a member of the Foundation, was replaced on the Board of Directors by McKenzie Bressler.

Bressler, a Cal Poly graduate, specializes in Agriculture Communication.

The board presented Hickel with a tree as a thank you for her years of service.

 

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