The Kern County Fair won't happen this year after the Board of Directors unanimously voted to cancel the event during a Monday meeting.
The board put off the decision until nearly the last minute, holding out hope that coronavirus cases in Kern would reduce to a level that would allow the fair to go on. Throughout June, fair officials believed a strong chance existed for the fair to take place in 2020.
However, Monday’s meeting took place during a spike in COVID-19 cases, with the local Public Health Services Department reporting more in recent days than it has since the start of the pandemic in March.
"For us to finally make this decision is harder than a lot of us ever thought it would be,” Chairwoman Blodgie Rodriguez said near the end of the meeting, tearing up after the vote.
The prospect of signing contracts with companies that would help put on the fair necessitated the board make a decision on the fair’s fate. Directors acknowledged that layoffs would happen as a result of the cancellation, but didn't go into detail regarding how extensive they'd be.
“It really sucks that we’re having to lay people off,” Director Ned Dunphy said during the meeting. “But just thanks to everybody, and hopefully we can get you all back.”
CEO Mike Olcott recommended the fair not take place this year, saying health requirements would likely prevent it from happening.
“Our numbers are going backwards very, very quickly with the increase in positive tests here at the fairgrounds. We’re testing daily. Things don’t look as good as they did in June,” he said, referring to the coronavirus testing site located on the fairgrounds. “I don’t see any way that we can go forward with fair under these conditions.”
The board’s decision will put financial strain on the fair as it tries surviving without its main revenue generator for another year. Olcott said the state had mandated all permanent staff would see a reduction in pay of around 9.3 percent. Director Lucas Espericueta said the fair had around $744,000 in various bank accounts after earning a profit in June.
“Our cash reserves are sitting pretty good,” he said of the fair’s financial position.
Directors indicated they'd try to come up with new ways to generate revenue, although none were offered Monday.
One bright spot during the meeting came as the board reiterated its intent to hold a livestock show. Directors said students who raised animals throughout the year would be able to take part in a virtual event.
“There’s still some work to be done, but at least we’ll be able to do something for the kids,” said Director Jared Britschgi. “It’s not going to be the normal, but something to let them put a stamp on the year.”