The Siskiyou Golden Fair
By Gary VanDeWalker
Fair's FairJuly 2015
By Gary Vandewalker
Photos: Stanley Krute
Today it is the smell of cotton candy, the noise of carnival rides and the excitement of children running down the paths lined with animal exhibits. However, 156 years ago, it began as a sole agricultural show in Fort Jones. In 1926, the event moved to its current location. In 1972, a Paul Bunyan Festival was dropped, and the grounds on Fairlane Road in Yreka chose to call the event the name that remains today: the Siskiyou Golden Fair. It’s always held 26 days before Labor Day and is part of a yearlong cycle at the fairgrounds, where more than 90,000 people visit each year.
“Fun for the Whole Herd” is this year’s theme. On Aug. 12-16, the gates will swing open to more than 5,000 fair entries, livestock competitions, music and food. More than 50,000 pairs of feet will burst down the fairways during the five days. Four full-time employees staff the fair, but it takes a much larger team to make it all work. “Other fairs are becoming more commercialized. It’s like going to a theme park,” CEO Cliff Munson says. “Our fair is a community get together, where everyone puts on the event and we enjoy each other’s work.” This year, there is a stronger than usual animal side to the Fair.
Alongside the rows of cattle, pigs, sheep, rabbits and chickens showcased by local youth will be a unique petting zoo. Last year’s zoo included a hairy armadillo. Featured will be the Oregon-based nonprofit organization Walk on the Wild Side, which helps all species of wild animals that need a place to live out their lives. Besides being a unique animal refuge, they take ambassador animals to public events, telling the story of each animal and providing a special picture opportunity with an exotic animal.
Walking through the exhibits is walking into the lives of nearby families. With more than 19 divisions and 5,000 lots to enter, the exhibits provide a glimpse into the values, tastes and everyday lives of this rural area. Quilts, canned goods, pies and photography fill the buildings. This year, new categories in photography and palette art expand an ever-increasing participation. The Exhibitor Handbook is online, inviting people to join in the activities. “What really keeps this fair unique is it is so well representative of the county,” Munson says. “The county is huge in mass, small in population, yet provides so much diversity.”
Carnival rides provide some of the thrills, but the Grandstand provides three nights of adrenaline. Friday moves forward with sprint car racing. Saturday, a rodeo brings out the best of the western heritage of the county, while Sunday is the ever-popular Destruction Derby.
The summer sun blazes bright over Siskiyou County. Soon the days will be full of children’s laughter, carnival music, local artists on their instruments and the gentle moo of a cow. Nighttime will bring the lights of the Ferris wheel and cheers from the grandstand. “We have one of those old-time community fairs,” Munson says. “Here you get to visit with people you only see at the fair and you find yourself meeting up with old friends.”
Siskiyou Golden Fair