Fiona Ma for State Assembly

California Fair bill may give new hope for fair funding

There is some good news on the horizon for fairs with a Western Fairs Association announcement Wednesday that Assemblywoman Fiona Ma is working on a California Fair Funding and Governance Structure bill.

The bill aims to find a stable funding source for the fair network and a new governance and oversight structure.

I appreciate any effort by anyone who will help to keep the fairs of California open for our communities, said Tehama District Fair CEO Mark Eidman.

Please remember that the fairground is a center of activity in Tehama County.

It's not just ferris wheels and showing pigs at fair time, but a place where most of the entertainment in Tehama County happens and it is used in times of emergency such as fires and floods.

During 2011, the Tehama District Fairground had 620 days of use, taking the number of events, usually between two and five in a single day, and counting the number of days that is equivalent to, Eidman said.

The most recent study on the fair's impact in Tehama County, conducted by the California Department of Food and Agriculture's Division of Fairs and Expositions, shows a generation of $7.6 million in spending activity.

That study, using 2009 numbers, is just during the time frame of the Tehama District Fair, which creates about 144 jobs and generates about $3 million in labor income each year.

This does not include the income generated by bigger events that use the fairgrounds as a main base of operation, such as the Red Bluff Bull & Gelding Sale, the Red Bluff Round-Up and the West Coast Monster Truck Nationals.

Fairs are an entirely different animal than any other state-funded enterprise because we more than pay for ourselves, said WFA Executive Director Stephen Chambers.

Seed money for fairs results in a 5-to-1 return on investment.

There's an endless list of reasons to preserve fairs.

Among those are volunteer and social services provided at fairgrounds, which in 2011 expanded to include hosting a food giveaway for the Tehama District Fairground.

The Tehama District Fairboard received bad news that, despite an approval by Fairs and Expositions of the revised 2012 operating budget, the group will have to go back to the drawing board.

Eidman announced during his manager's report the fairground has been told Bargaining Unit 12, which includes maintenance staff, has a 5 percent pay increase coming to it as a part of the mandatory contract with the union.

Tehama District Fairground has two maintenance personnel, whose salary increase is equivalent to about $250 per month, Eidman said.

The increase was not reflected in the budget that went before the board at Tuesday's meeting.

It's disturbing that there is no state funding, yet we have to continue to pay this, Director Bob Kerstiens, Jr said. We're trying to save every penny we can and this is a major hit.

The increase comes on the wings of Gov. Jerry Brown's elimination of all state funding for fairs in 2012, a 25 percent cut for the Tehama District Fairground budget equivalent to $200,000.

In light of state cuts, the fairboard cut as much as it could from its budget and is looking to other ways of running the fairground, including a change to non-profit management.

Eidman was told to move forward with plans to bring back the tractor pulls, a widely popular well attended event at the 2011 fair, for this year's fair, he said.

The organizer has agreed, despite rising costs, to hold the show at the same rate as 2011, Eidman said.

The Tehama District Fairboard meets at 1 p.m. on the third Tuesday of the month in the Tehama room.