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Fair to return this July with changes
fair return
The Stanislaus County Fair Board is planning on a modified fair run this year, which will include arena events like the destruction derby (Journal file photo).

The Stanislaus County Fair will return to Turlock this year, albeit with a few differences.

A board meeting decision made Monday night approved moving forward with a “modified version” of the fair this year after the event was cancelled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Stanislaus County Fair CEO Matt Cranford said on Tuesday that the plan currently includes four weekends of fair fun in July, excluding the 4th of July weekend and weekdays, which will center around shows and concerts in the fairgrounds arena with the possibility of food and carnival rides.

“Doing a festival or fair like we normally do could be problematic,” Cranford said. 

Rather than its typical 10-day run, the Stanislaus County Fair would welcome patrons on July 9, 10, 16, 17, 23, 24 and possibly the 30 and 31, Cranford said. Fair show staples like tractor pulls, monster trucks and the destruction derby will still take place in the arena, as well as concerts which will likely feature local bands. 

Cranford is also working with Stanislaus County Public Health and the carnival company to bring in a “stripped down” version of the fair rides visitors know and love during the fair’s first two weekends, with capacity levels enforced. 

All planning is contingent on current COVID numbers locally, he added, and the organization is prepared for any jump or drop in cases. The fair is classified as an “amusement park” under the state’s tiered reopening guidance and while Gov. Gavin Newsom has said restrictions will be lifted June 15, it’s uncertain whether or not the fair could be included in the rollback.

“We’re not sure how it will look in July. It could change and roll backwards, or things could open up more. We just don’t know,” Cranford said. “I’ve taken a very cautious and conservative approach with COVID this year because it seems like it changes every two or three weeks...We don’t want to spend money to put together a festival atmosphere and then not see it materialize.”

While the fair was able to host virtual livestock shows for agriculture and FFA students last year, this year will see shows return to the fairgrounds in an extended format over the course of 21 days. Fewer people will be allowed to view the shows in order to promote social distancing. 

Cranford said while the plans are still in motion, it’s nice to be moving forward with one of the county’s biggest events which drew 260,000 to Turlock the last time it was held in 2019. This year’s event is to keep the fair financially stable, he said, so that it can return in full force next year.

“Last year was probably my single hardest year professionally. We work year-round to have a county fair, and to be told you can't do it makes it tough,” Cranford said. “Now, we have some light at the end of the tunnel.”