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Calaveras County Fair Virtually Thrives Despite COVID-19 Shutdown

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Angels Camp, CA – This year’s Calaveras County Fair while physically canceled over the COVID-19 pandemic thrived online raising $425,000 and still counting in its livestock auction.

Fair CEO Laurie Giannini on Monday reported that although the processing of the various boosts was still going on and her comparison was not exactly “apples to apples,” the tally for the fair’s first-ever online auction was already over $425,000 with 30 fewer animals involved versus last year’s record total of over $600,000.

She readily credits what she calls her “visionary” board of directors. “They tasked me with still engaging our community, and the fairgrounds is our [county’s] biggest facility, and with $5.2 million in 2015 spending activity we knew it would be a hard thing not having the fair.”

Staff and volunteers set out to keep families and community-engaged along with recognizing the people doing the hard work that needs to be done during this trying time.

The virtual livestock auction, held with an online auction provider, was a primary goal, Giannini recounts. “First of all because the kids were working very hard and also it was important to get the animals into the local food chain.”

Together, she says, staff, the volunteers on the Junior Livestock Committee, key sponsors, state and local officials pulled together to follow protocol many had never before encountered.

Okay, Sure! What’s An Online Auction?

“Some of our volunteers have been on the committee for 30-40 years who didn’t even know what an online auction was or have email…but they all embraced it,” she says happily. “It all worked out really well and to the benefit of our children so it was really good.”

“Towards the end of the auction we were getting 100 bids per minute with the longest lapse of about 10 seconds,” she recalls, still clearly amazed. “It’s heartwarming and encouraging. That’s why I love Calaveras County. We have literally been through fire and flood…and I know it sounds really clique that ‘we are better together’ …but we really believe it here.”

In the absence of all the other competitive events and activities, not the least of which was the famous Frog Jump Jubilee, the fair hosted virtual alternatives, such as a youth Parade where folks could enter photos to be part of an online slideshow.

Giannini says the “If You Grew It Or Drew It Or Sewed It, Show It” competition, meant to encompass arts, crafts, farming, flora-culture, and other categories, drew over 100 entries. Several other contests meant to engage kids all remote learning at home with their parents also showed strong participation. Among these were Show Your Goat, Cute Bunny, or Proud Pup Owner. There were also Frog Jump Photo and COVID-19 essay contests.

Those hankering for fair merchandise were also given the option to drive through and grab a taste of fair food fare in the form of corndogs and cotton candy. “The cars at one time were lined up out to the highway and it was like an old-fashioned carhop with kids going out to take and serve orders,” Giannini chuckles appreciatively.

Moving forward, fair staff are still planning to host the Hometown Hoedown in October. Giannini adds emphatically, “We will have a Fair in 2021. I am not going to say we won’t have some financial difficulties because we lost [revenues from] all these events. But we are a resilient community — and I am confident that together we are going to just come out of this just as strong as we were before.”