By Duncan A. Kennedy
Last month, May 18th, saw the Plumas-Sierra County Fair Board of Directors convene for the first time since March. The Board discussed preparations for this year’s fair, budgetary concerns, and the recent “Innovation Hub” project that the fair has been working on in Indian Valley recently. Present were Board President Cindy Noble, Vice-President Chris Kennedy, and Directors Kenny Chance, Jenay Cogle, Susan Neer, Jim Griffin, and Duncan Kennedy. Absent was Director Andrea Ceresola; this was also the first meeting since Director Darlene Buckhout’s resignation in March.
Fair Manager John Steffanic gave his Manager’s Report at the start of the meeting. According to Steffanic, the effort to retrofit locks on buildings is still roadblocked since the previous locksmith’s death in 2020. The fair has acquired 100 new padded chairs for events and three new fans for the Swine Barns. Serpilio Hall’s floor will be ground down and smoothed out in August. The Plumas County Board of Supervisors has approved a supplemental budget for infrastructure maintenance on projects such as the roof of the Junior Ag Barn.
The Financial Report saw Vice-President C. Kennedy and Director D. Kennedy raise concerns regarding a $594,000 transfer out of fair accounts to Plumas County for the new county jail project. Steffanic assuaged those concerns with more details – the transfer was backing for a state bridge loan, and the transfer has already been repaid. The fair’s fiscal year ends on June 30th, and so far is mainly within budget.
Reportedly, more money is coming down the pipeline soon – the state is sending $42,000 more, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is supplying another $61,000, and the state approved a bigger grant budget for electrical and wiring maintenance. Steffanic also discovered that the fair has a previously unknown accrued cash balance of over $250,000 in one of its accounts, thanks to a lack of investigation by Plumas County’s two previous Auditor-Controllers. Steffanic has proposed that the Fair Board budget $40,000 for maintenance and $50,000 for the Innovation Hub project next fiscal year and send a thank-you payment of $5,000 to the California Fair Alliance for securing a $780,000 grant for our fair.
Expected revenues from fair activities next year are estimated at $425,000, while anticipated expenses are $719,000. The state expects to invest between $50,000 and $100,000, leaving a final fund balance for the Plumas-Sierra County Fair of somewhere around $1,000,000.
Steffanic finalized grandstand entertainment in the gap between the last meeting and this one; up-and-coming Nashville country singer Jake Jacobson will return to his boyhood home of Plumas County on Saturday, July 30th, for a concert in the historic fair grandstand. Tickets will be $10 apiece, with proceeds donated to the Dixie Fire Collaborative, so show up! Additionally, other music will be played that night and previously at the Old Town Stage – Walker and Willis will play Thursday night, Rummy will be there Friday night, and Rickety Bridge will play on Saturday.
The fair has nearly finalized contracts with all exhibit judges for this year and lined up an impressive selection of grounds entertainment, from the Street Drum Corps and Quircus to The Mentalist Rich Ames and tap-dance group Powerhouse.
Camping this year is much lower than in previous years, and next year may have fewer livestock entries due to animal feed costs. Most food vendors of earlier years will return to the food court, and some new ones will be available due to the different dates. The Sweetheart of the Mountains competition is closed, with only two entrants applying.
In new business, the Indian Valley Innovation Hub project was explained to the Board by Steffanic. This project is an investment made with the state-level fair grants to develop and showcase products made, grown, or raised in Indian Valley that can be shown at the county fair. These products also have the potential for and are focused on out-of-county export, injecting cash into local economies. The basic model is that people interested in developing a product will come to the Innovation Hub to connect with professionals who can help them with the process and obtain micro-loan funding to get their project off the ground.
Potential resources include legal specialists setting up LLCs, sales specialists to market in Chico, Reno, Redding, and Tahoe, and logistics providers to transport goods to sale. The starting investment is $100,000 – half from the county fair and half from the PSCF Foundation – but entities such as CDFA and PG&E have expressed interest in investing. Steffanic says that the Innovation Hub will likely only be a fair issue for the next six months before it becomes an independent entity but hopes to see the model take root elsewhere across the area.
The next meeting of the Fair Board is June 22nd; members of the public are welcome to attend if interested. Currently, five seats on the Board are vacant – two from Lake Almanor, one from Quincy, one from Blairsden-Graeagle, and one from Portola and Sierra Valley. The Board is always looking for new members; if you are interested in the health and well-being of the county fair, please apply via the Board of Supervisors.