Shasta District Fair Opens Wednesday

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Young fairgoers Katie Eayre & Iliana Phillips at the 2010 Shasta District Fair. Photos by Alan Ernesto Phillips.

The Shasta District Fair is scheduled to begin its annual five-day run at 11 a.m. this Wednesday, June 15, at the fairgrounds in Anderson, and it is not too late to buy advance tickets at a discount.

Single-day admission tickets are on sale for a $2 discount ($5 for adults and $3 for kids 6 to 12, and seniors at least 62 years old) on the Shasta District Fair website until the clock strikes 12 a.m. on Wednesday.  Season passes at a $12.50 savings and carnival ride wristbands at a $7 discount are available until the close of business Tuesday at the fairgrounds ticket booth, area branches of North Valley, Premier West and Tri-Counties banks, Ace Hardware Express in Anderson, Cash It Now in Anderson and the Humor Shop in downtown Redding.

A worker mounts signs Monday for this year's fair.

About one-third of fair tickets are sold in advance, according to fair CEO Chris Workman, who can’t figure out why more people don’t take advantage of the money-saving opportunity.

However they obtain tickets, fair patrons will find the usual wide variety of headline entertainers. Shasta Taiko Drummers from Mount Shasta take the grandstand stage at 8 p.m. on Wednesday. The Straight Ahead Big Band is the 7:30 p.m. headliner on Thursday. On Friday, the legendary Charlie Daniels plugs in his fiddle at 8 p.m. Stock car auto racing is the big attraction on Saturday evening, and Sunday features more racing and a demolition derby. All grandstand events are free with fair admission, although you may pay a little extra for access to the Straight Ahead Big Band’s swing dance area or to sit right up front for the Charlie Daniels Band performance. In addition, local talent will fill the Pepsi stage each evening, including the Shasta County Idol contest at 6:30 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday.

Addison Flieghman gets a pony ride at the 2010 fair. This year, horse shows have been canceled because of a horse virus.

“We like to shake it up,” Workman said. “We offer music for everybody. We try to hit all types and tastes.”

Wednesday is kid’s day, so all children 12 and younger get in for free. Thursday is senior day, so everyone at least 62 years old walks through the gate gratis. Livestock shows are set for mornings and afternoons on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and the livestock auction begins at 8 a.m. on Saturday. Fair closing time is 11 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, midnight on Friday and Saturday, and 10 p.m. on Sunday.

What the fair won’t have this year are any horse shows, because of a regional outbreak of equine herpes virus, a potentially deadly horse disease for which there is currently no vaccine. Other fairs, including the recent Silver Dollar Fair in Chico, have also had to cancel their horse shows because of the scary situation.

“It’s better to be safe than sorry,” Workman said. “The last outbreak that I know of was on Friday the third, and that’s just too close. The horses are going to be highly missed by a lot of people.”

Kevin Coburn, of West Valley FFA, tends his hog, Stan, on Monday.

But other livestock were already being moved onto the fairgrounds on Monday. Kevin Coburn, of West Valley FFA, was keeping his hog, Stan, company in a pen on Monday afternoon. Coburn, who just completed his freshman year, has raised Stan for nearly two years and intends to sell the approximately 260-pound swine at auction.

“He’s the first I’ve ever raised,” a shy Coburn said while scratching Stan’s back.

New this year is an open boer goat show, for which the fair has a stunning 298 entries, according to Workman.

In exhibit halls across the way, people were arranging everything from preserved food to quilts to custom barbecues entered by local residents in hundreds of categories. Fifteen-year-old Martha Cox, of the Foothill FFA, was building an elaborate Japanese garden display in Trinity Hall. The display serves as her FFA project, in part because she does not have room for livestock and in part because she had access to plants leftover from her family’s now-closed nursery east of Redding. Plus, her father, Ken, built a similar fair display when he was younger. On Monday, Ken Cox was providing guidance but not much labor for the effort.

A Japanese garden display arranged by 15-year-old Martha Cox, of Foothill FFA.

“She’s the one who watered and trained the plants,” a proud Ken Cox said while nodding toward the Japanese maples, spruce, junipers and other trees and shrubs in the ambitious display.

All around the fair, volunteers, fair staff members, vendors and exhibitors were busy readying the place for the tens of thousands of people who visit the event every year.

“It takes a huge effort to put the fair on,” Workman said. Despite all the hard work, the fair’s success is dictated in large part by two things outside of local control: The weather and the economy.

Ideal weather, according to Workman, is warm but not hot – maybe mid- to upper-80s with a light breeze and warm evenings. In recent years, the fair has had more cool weather, including some downright cold evenings, than scorching temperatures.

Considering that the most expensive fair admission ticket costs only $7 and gets you upwards of 13 hours of entertainment, it’s hard to believe the economy affects fair attendance. But it does, said Workman, who noted that families have to pick and choose from among many entertainment options when money is tight.

One other thing looms over this year’s Shasta District Fair: the state budget, which, as proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown, contains no money for fairs. No one is sure what elimination of state funding would mean to the future of district and county fairs, but the Western Fairs Association has reported that nearly 30 rural fairs, including Shasta District Fair, face uncertain futures if state funding is cut off.

All of which adds a bit of urgency to the 2011 fair. A full calendar of events is available on the fair website, as is a link to the fair’s new Facebook page, which will be offering daily contests throughout the fair.

View the Shasta District Fairgrounds in a larger map.

Photographs by Alan Ernesto Phillips.

shigley-mugshotPaul Shigley is a freelance journalist based in Western Shasta County, CA, and recommends visiting the livestock barns early during fair week. He may be reached at

A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment.

has been a professional journalist since 1987. For 12 years, he served as editor or senior editor of California Planning & Development Report, a statewide trade publication for land use planners, real estate development professionals and attorneys. Prior to that, he worked as a reporter or editor at newspapers in Redding, Grass Valley, Napa and Calistoga. Shigley's work also has appeared in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Planning magazine, Governing magazine, California Law Week, National Speed Sport News and elsewhere. In addition, he is co-author of Guide to California Planning, a college text and reference book, and is currently working on a book for the American Planning Association about the Bay Delta and California water resources. A graduate of California State University, Sacramento, Shigley has contributed to A News Cafe since 2009. He and his wife, Dana, live in western Shasta County.
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