It looks like the Santa Clara County Fair is going the way of
the telegraph and the horse and carriage. It’s too bad that a the
67-year-old fair, a link to our region’s rich agricultural history,
is losing county funding, but that’s the stark reality in these
difficult economic times.
Only 5,000 people are expected to attend this year’s event
It looks like the Santa Clara County Fair is going the way of the telegraph and the horse and carriage. It’s too bad that a the 67-year-old fair, a link to our region’s rich agricultural history, is losing county funding, but that’s the stark reality in these difficult economic times.
This year, the fair will be scaled back, featuring mostly 4-H and Future Farmers of America presentations, with no rides or carnival attractions. Only 5,000 people are expected to attend. County supervisors are faced with a $170 million budget deficit for fiscal year 2008-2009. It’s hard to justify spending nearly half a million dollars to subsidize the fair when critical public safety and public health services have been and will continue to be cut to deal with chronic budget shortfalls.
Public safety and health care, of course, outrank the county fair
“We’ve got to cut back. We can’t afford it,” County Supervisor Don Gage told reporter Chris Bone. “We’ll just have to size it down so the Future Farmers of America and different organizations can be able to show their animals so they can get to the state fair if they need to. The circuses and carnivals just aren’t paying off.”
Simply put, funding the fair ranks low on a priority list that includes items like paying for sheriff’s deputies, prosecutors, medical and mental health services, homeless shelters, drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs, road maintenance, and more.
Bonfante/Gilroy Gardens might be a place to stage what’s left
Still, our region has a long and vibrant agricultural history, and it’s important to honor and preserve that. We’ve called for creative thinking in this regard in the past, and we renew that call in the face of a deflated fair. Perhaps the fair could be moved to South County – the heart of the county’s current agriculture industry – and held at a venue like Gilroy Gardens, which has a mission to educate the community about horticulture. The purposes dovetail nicely, and Gilroy Gardens has much of the fair infrastructure – rides, food – in place. The park would benefit by introducing fair visitors to the hidden gem on Hecker Pass.
We understand county supervisors’ decision not to fund the fair, but hope that all parties can work together to find an out-of-the-box solution that will preserve as much of the history and spirit of the county fair as possible.