CEO sees more family fun, service efforts ahead
By JONATHAN WHITAKER
April 20, 2017
‘Five Best Days Of Summer’ are fast approaching
with the Merced County Fair set for June 7 to June 11.
Preparations at the already busy fairgrounds are ramping
up for the big event, according to the the fair’s
CEO Teresa Burrola, and there’s already great momentum
gained from last year’s success.
The director met with the Times recently to talk about how
things are going at the fairgrounds, the coming attractions,
and upgrades to facilities and ambience.
These days it’s hard not to notice that the fairgrounds
is a full-time, year-round operation, with all of its buildings
and outdoor areas in active use — from community service
events and cultural celebrations, to auto racing, flea markets
and educational opportunities.
Burrola points to the upcoming Spring Clean Up electronic
recycling effort to be centralized at the fairgrounds on
the weekend of April 29-30, and again on the weekend of
May 6-7. This event held jointly with the City of Merced
is a great, free chance for residents to rid homes and businesses
of e-waste in a safe and secure manner.
Meanwhile, the rental program for facilities at the fairgrounds
is going really well, according to Burrola, and that helps
support the annual County Fair in June.
“People may think we make a lot of money off the fair,
but we have a lot of bills to pay: for the sound, the stages,
the lights, the concert performers, all our employees, public
safety …” she said.
Fairground rentals make up about 280 contracts a year for
single or multiple-day events like fundraisers, cultural
festivals, exhibitions, and big family celebrations. There’s
also the auto racing season at the Grandstand, the multiuse
Hilmar Cheese Barn, the Head Start educational classrooms
along G Street, and the weekend flea market across the street.
Burrola says the fairgrounds is maintaining its own while
receiving less than a third of the annual state funding
it received in pre-recession years. Nevertheless, monies
are coming in by way of grants for emergency arena lighting,
She does point out that local leaders, particularly Assemblyman
Adam Gray, have been friends of the fair and continue the
search to find additional funding. “He [Gray] really
does believe County Fairs are so vital for communities.
… Not only are we here for fun and celebration, and
that sort of thing, but we are here when tragedy strikes,
when there are fires or floods. We then become evacuation
centers. We also become places where displaced livestock
animals can be sheltered. So in this way we stay connected
to the county and the state if there is some sort of emergency
situation. We can open our doors and be available.”
But it’s the annual Merced County Fair that grabs
the most attention and the one event that local residents
appear to appreciate the most.
With that in mind, Burrola is smiling after a huge success
“We improved our programing, beefed up our entertainment,
the weather was great, and as a result we saw a 14 percent
increase in attendance,” she said. “This year
we continue to have a strong entertainment lineup and some
new features too.”
In The Spotlight
The “I Am King — The Michael Jackson Experience”
is expected to bring a “show” atmosphere to
the popular Table Mountain Concert Series, and draw a broad,
family audience of all ages to the free Outdoor Theatre
Stage on June 7, opening night. Nothing quite like it has
been offered at the concert series before. Not only will
it feature the music of the “King of Pop,” but
also a cast of Broadway and Las Vegas dancers.
Country music star John Michael Montgomery (“I Swear”
and “I Love The Way You Love Me”) June 8; funk
group WAR (“Spill The Wine” and “Why Can’t
We Be Friends”) June 9; and regional Mexican music
star Noel Torres (“El Tiempo Contigo”) June
11, will all round out the big name entertainment.
Burrola, however, says a local group featured in the series
on June 10 is causing quite a stir in the region. Moonshine
Bandits from Los Banos have quite the following for their
country-rap group with recent albums on the Billboard charts.
“I’m honored to have them on our big stage,”
Burrola said. “I think these two young men [high school
friends from Los Banos] are going to do well.”
Fairgoers will find some new surprises this year in the
form of animal and food attractions. Burrola said the new
“Lorikeets Exhibit” was inspired by a visit
she made to the annual Western Fairs Convention to see what
was new and exciting going on. Lorikeets features an enclosed
tropical area to have an up-close and hands-on feeding experience
with exotic birds sipping nectar from cups. Along the same
lines, the fair will also introduce camel rides to local
residents — yes, people riding atop real camels —
and All-Alaskan Racing Pig competitions.
On the Midway food court area, visitors will see a brand,
new, shiny Chinese Food concession stand that will join
the veteran food vendors.
Butler Amusement, with thrilling rides and an excellent
safety record, will continue to operate the carnival areas.
The nightly Grandstand entertainment lineup will include
Auto Racing (June 7); WGAS Motorsports (June 8); Bull Competition
(June 9); and the Valley Tractor Pullers (June 10).
Savings and Service
The fair’s pre-sale is going on until June 6, with
$2 off adult admission; $10 off a 5-pack of admission tickets
for just $30; and $5 savings on unlimited carnival ride
On the June 7 Opening Night — “Mercy Medical
Center’s We Care Wednesday” — it’s
also Seniors’ Day with those 62 or better able to
enjoy the fair all evening long for FREE. Also, that same
night, the fair staff is bringing back the Community Food
Drive. Bring 5 cans of food anytime between 5 p.m. and 7
p.m., and get into the fair for FREE. All food will be donated
to the Merced County Food Bank to feed those in need in
our very own community.
Thanks to a grant from Merced County First Five a special
place for mothers and babies is being created. It’s
a colorful and relaxing nursing station / rest area, along
with restrooms for diaper-changing.
Burrola admits she’s helping to add a softer, feminine
touch to the fair — all in an effort to welcome more
families. Instead of the brief firework displays they have
used at night, the CEO this year invested money to light
up walkways and gathering places with decorative displays,
including around the Coors Light Stage and dance area, and
“As a mom and a grandmother myself, when I walk into
a place, I want it to have a that feel — a good, safe,
enjoyable feeling — kinda like a Disneyland effect.”
Deadline Near For
Don’t delay! The 2017 Merced County Fair is approaching
fast, and they are looking to feature the best of Mercd
County as part of competitive exhibits — from arts
and crafts to livestock.
Remember, the majority of the competitive exhibits are FREE
The Exhibitor Handbook is available online at mercedcountyfair.com.
Just click on the button that says “Competitive Exhibits”
on the bottom left.
MAY 4 is the deadline to enter!
Says CEO Burrola: “I would love to double our number
of entries from last year as this is our opportunity to
showcase the incredible talents of our community.”