By Duncan A. Kennedy
(Quincy) For the second time in a single month (a rare occasion) the Plumas-Sierra County Fair Board of Directors reconvened in the Mineral Building to discuss fairtime planning, staffing, and most notably, grandstand entertainment possibilities at this year’s county fair.
The meeting saw a changing of the guard at the start, with Directors Kenny Chance and Darlene Buckhout stepping down as President and Vice-President of the Board. Their successors, Directors Cindy Noble and Chris Kennedy respectively, conducted the meeting instead. This meeting began without public comment or any correspondence, so Fair Manager John Steffanic began his manager’s report far earlier than usual.
Steffanic informed the Board there will be between two and four emergency assistance trailers from Plumas County taking up residence in an empty corner of the Fairgrounds; these trailers were valuable assets in Indian Valley during the Dixie Fire disaster.
Also, Steffanic said the High Sierra Music Festival has been confirmed to be returning to Quincy for their 30th year in early July. In addition, the Fairgrounds will be hosting Saturday night races again this summer at the American Valley Speedway, the classic car show, and the County Picnic for the first time since 2019.
It seems the Plumas-Sierra County Fair Foundation has also been busy recently, as Steffanic elaborated in his report. The Sweetheart of the Mountains pageant is returning this year, although this year’s competition will not require prospective candidates to host a fundraiser of some sort – this time around, it’s just an essay competition, although the winner will still be crowned at the County Picnic; applications are available through the Fair Office. The Pops Concerts will continue this spring, with a jazz concert on May 13th and a brass band playing on June 11th. Chipper’s Christmas Display will be returning to a drive-through format this year in the wake of ice hazards during last year’s event, and will be expanded to cover more of the Fairgrounds.
Regarding staffing during the annual fair, there is still a long list of open volunteer positions to be filled in order to ensure this year’s fair goes off without a hitch.
Currently, the positions need filling include drivers for the Chipper Express, gate and parking attendants, clerks and staff in the Junior Ag and Home Arts buildings, and a building supervisor for Home Arts. If you’re interested in helping, contact the Fair Office at (530) 283-6272 or go to plumas-sierracountyfair.net.
The big topic debated at this meeting, however, was the proposed grandstand entertainment act that had been brought up by Steffanic at the previous meeting earlier in the month. At that meeting on March 3rd, the Board debated two options for grandstand musical acts (Wynonna Judd and Lonestar) and saw the suggestion that an alternative form of non-musical entertainment be explored instead.
The grandstand seating at the speedway can hold almost 3,000 people, but when it was last nearly that full around half of the board members were children and one would not be born for over a decade. According to Steffanic, the largest attraction in recent memory attracted around 750 people (a logging show), and that attendance rapidly dropped the following year, and the most recent show to attract more than 100 people was an impersonator band with free admission.
Director C. Kennedy pointed out that the idea of hiring a big act like Niko Moon, Tyler Rich or Wynonna Judd was going to be so far from recouping its own costs that admission may as well be offered for free. However, this brought up a different issue that Steffanic had noticed – free admission acts like the impersonator band saw abysmal attendance, likely due to the perception of low value that comes from no cost to enter. The fair would need to sell at least 1,100 tickets to recoup even half the costs of hiring a big act, and would be able to offer a similar act the following year if they sold out all 3,000 – but that’s a massive “if”, given their track record in the low to mid hundreds at best.
One audience member suggested trying to appeal to the youth demographic of the Lost Sierra, suggesting that Steffanic look into booking “popular streamers of TikTok stars”, a suggestion causing Director D. Kennedy, the only board member actually in the youth demographic, to react with visible discomfort. Directors Cogle and Neer also suggested that Steffanic stage an aggressive campaign of donation soliciting towards construction and logging companies cleaning up the aftermath of the Dixie Fire. The wisdom of begging for money from groups quite literally profiting off of the destruction of Plumas County seems questionable at best, but Steffanic committed to doing his best on that front.
Director Chance had suggested a non-musical act as a viable alternative at the previous meeting, suggesting a tractor pull or competitive dirt biking event. This idea was revisited at this meeting and saw other options such as a big top circus, a jousting tournament, a competition or a demolition derby suggested. Steffanic promised to look into these options as well, to decent approval from the board. Near the end of the meeting, the idea of hiring three lesser-known, more local acts to perform back to back in a “Battle of the Bands” style concert was brought up. Rickety Bridge was a favorite in this regard, and some have pondered up-and-coming local legend Jake Jacobson as well. This idea was met with strong approval from the board.
Steffanic will present the grandstand options at the next meeting on April 20th, where the board will vote on what option to choose. After that, “it’s going to come down to who we want versus who is available.” The public is encouraged to attend.