County fair set to lose funding next year

Derick Heninger, 11, of the Adams 4-H Club, cleans Prize's ears

In the midst of dwindling attendance, Santa Clara County
supervisors have opted not to fund the Santa Clara County Fair
after this year.
The 69-year-old fair, which runs through Sunday, has seen
attendance dwindle and the county is considering other uses for the
current fair site at 344 Tully Road in San Jose.
In the midst of dwindling attendance, Santa Clara County supervisors have opted not to fund the Santa Clara County Fair after this year.

The 69-year-old fair, which runs through Sunday, has seen attendance dwindle and the county is considering other uses for the current fair site at 344 Tully Road in San Jose.

Fair manager Delana Romero remains confident despite the bleak news of the fair’s future. She said interest in the fair is improving, and the county is working on a plan to keep it going through public support.

“Even though we will have a bare-bones budget, we’ll be able to come back next year,” Romero said.

The fair manager said she would imagine the new plan will entail financing the fair through a combination of fund raising and sponsorships.

While the county forked over about $80,000 for this year’s event — fair supporters had to raise more than $12,500 through fund raising — Santa Clara County Supervisor Don Gage said fellow supervisors were unwilling to spend any money on it in future years.

The event has generally been in decline for about 20 years, Gage said. In the past, the event included horse and vehicle races, concerts and other entertainment, but those events disappeared after people in the area complained about noise, he said.

In the fair’s glory days, the fair would draw thousands per day during a two-week period. Now the four-day event is labeled as a “youth fair,” and no longer contains exhibit competitions for adults and draws about 10,000.

Romero points to a jump in vendors as a source of growth for the fair. Three years ago the event drew 4,000 people with about six vendors. It has increased to 10,000 last year with 80 vendors.

Gage is pushing for a South County location for the event, such as Harvey Bear Ranch in San Martin.

Part of the reason for the push for a venue change is because the county is considering various uses for the current fair site, such as a new baseball or football stadium, Gage said. In the past, the county also has talked about selling the property, which Gage said was worth about $300 million to $400 million.

Although various locations have been presented throughout the county, Romero said proper infrastructure to hold the event has to be considered.

For Local 4-H and Future Farmers of America members the Fair is the premiere regional event for showing their livestock.

Bill Dabel, a San Jose resident who has volunteered for the county fair for decades, recalled a time when the fair was a place where friends could share and enjoy the county’s rich agricultural community.

“This was at least the richest farmland in the state, if not the nation,” Dabel said. “It’s been asphalted over by the computer business. It’s called progress.”

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When: Runs through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Where: 344 Tully Road, San Jose

Cost: Free admission and parking

Details: www.thefair.org

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