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Kern County fair back on after being postponed

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In this file photo, children ride a roller coaster at Butler Magical Amusements at the Kern County Fair.

The Kern County Fair will take place this year after previously being postponed due to concerns over the coronavirus.

At a special meeting on Friday, the 15th District Agricultural Association Board of Directors voted to hold the annual fair from Sept. 22 to Oct. 3. The vote follows comments by Kern County Chief Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop at a Board of Supervisors meeting two weeks ago, making clear a mass vaccination site hosted at the fairgrounds would not stand in the way of the fair taking place.

Previously, directors had stated a contract allowing the county to host a mass vaccination site and emergency staging area at the fairgrounds through Sept. 30 would preclude the fair from taking place as normal. However, Alsop said the county had not communicated that sentiment to the Agricultural Association, leading to the possibility that the fair could take place this year at its usual time.

The contract with the county allowing coronavirus operations to take place at the fairgrounds has provided a lifeline for the Agricultural Association during the pandemic. In total, the county could spend up to around $1.5 million for its contract at the fairground.

On Friday, Director Ned Dunphy thanked the county for their support throughout the pandemic.

“We are extremely grateful to them extending a lifeline to us and keeping us alive during this pandemic,” he said.

Many other directors echoed his sentiment. Chairwoman Blodgie Rodriguez even cried tears of joy following the unanimous vote to hold the fair.

“We truly wouldn’t have open doors if it wasn’t for our relationship with the county,” she said during the meeting. “I’m so excited we get to have the fair. This is really great news. You guys are such hard workers.”

An annual tradition for many families, the Kern County fair also underscores the county’s connection to agriculture. Kern County Farm Bureau President John Moore said at the meeting more and more community members were drifting away from the county’s agricultural roots, a trend the fair helped reverse.

“We look forward to another great year,” he said.

It is unclear how the pandemic will impact the fair experience this fall. The state of California is scheduled to eliminate many COVID-19 measures on June 15, but restrictions will remain for “mega events,” defined as an indoor occasion with more than 5,000 participants, or outdoor occasions with more than 10,000.

Currently, the state plans to require vaccination or proof of a negative COVID test for indoor mega events, and recommends the practice for outdoor events. The state also requires participants of both outdoor and indoor mega events to follow Centers for Disease Control mask guidelines.

Few details about the fair were made public on Friday. The theme, however, was debuted. “The fun starts here,” is the official anthem of the fair.

“I think that we’ve made it through,” said Director David Torres. “This is family, this fair board, and we’re going to do everything we can to make this one of the best fairs, and actually, a fair to remember.”

You can reach Sam Morgen at 661-395-7415. You may also follow him on Twitter @smorgenTBC.