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Public’s Help Sought For Mother Lode Fair Makeover

Sonora, CA – Due to significantly lower attendance numbers this year at the Mother Lode Fair, its board, now channeling plans for a makeover, is reaching out to the public for insights and ideas.

Last night at a special meeting called to solicit comments the board received what Fair Board President Missy Marino calls some pretty good input. While this year’s triple-digit heat may have wilted the wills of some residents to come out, she admits that with so many other established summer holiday and events already calendared before and after the Fair’s traditionally slotted second weekend in July, the primary issue really comes down to generating more participation from county citizens.

This year’s event, which celebrated its 80th anniversary, shattered all previous large livestock auction records by $105,000, hitting total sales of $361,000 despite a much reduced attendance. While those official figures are not yet available, Fair receipts indicate that adding a bull riding competition failed to draw more goers. Among other attractions added by new Fair CEO Ken Alstott were some kid zone activities, intended to provide a more-rounded family experience, along with more live music and some special pricing packages and discounts.

Altering Hours To ‘Go With The Flow’

Alstott is pushing for restoring the fair schedule to its previous four-day span before the board pared a day away in 2015 – and to shorten the hours of operation. “So, instead of opening at noon, [maybe we are] opening at 5 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and on Saturday and Sunday at 3,” Marino explains. “So if it is hot we are not asking people to come in the hottest part of the day — because [this year] they didn’t come when it first opened — they waited until it cooled down some.”

Among other ideas now being bandied about for next year are creating a more enticing mix of attractions, perhaps some water rides and slides; providing cooling stations; drawing more competition entries to fill the pavilion buildings with more interesting displays; also tapping local artisan food producers and farmers market growers.

Of Wednesday’s public input session Marino shares, “We had some fun ideas that were thrown out.” Rattling off a few she recalls a model train exhibition, dog dock diving and adding tribute band concerts after arena events.

Looking To Entice Goers Inside — And All Around The Barns

One thing the fair definitely has going for it, Marino notes, “Livestock is huge…we did have a record-breaking [large livestock auction] this year. The barns were full kids who were showing and they did a wonderful job — and there is always a lot of activity down in Livestock.” Continuing, she muses, “So how can we make it to where — when you leave the livestock area — you want to come to the rest of the fair and see what is available [that reflects] Tuolumne County?”

While the board is eager to set next year’s date, through a possible miscommunication with the Fair’s current carnival purveyor, who will not be available the second weekend in July, has Alstott scurrying to locate another provider. Crossing fingers, Marino earnestly intones, “We will find a carnival somewhere the second weekend for July 12 through 15.”

Marino says the board is still actively soliciting ideas, not just ahead of its Aug. 30 meeting but also in the weeks and months ahead, although the sooner the better. “We are happy to hear ideas for improvement…they need to happen before January though because by then we need to be in the planning stage,” she emphasizes. She directs folks to send them via email to info@mlfair.com.