Barbara Matheron showed sheep and horses at the Merced County Fair when she was just a young girl in 4-H and that’s where her lifelong love of fairs began.
Matheron, of Hilmar, grew up at the fair, then watched with pride as her sons, Ryan and Aaron, went through 4-H and FFA showing their animals at the fair. She served on the Merced County Fair 35th District Agricultural Association’s Board from 1993 to 2001, and was reappointed to the board in 2005, serving until 2013. Matheron was inspired to apply for a seat on the Merced Fair board because her father, A.V. Bettencourt, served on the Los Banos Spring Fair Board.
Matheron was honored with the Western Fairs Blue Ribbon Award during ceremonies at the 2014 Merced County Fair Junior Livestock Auction on Saturday.
Western Fairs Association Blue Ribbon Awards are presented by fairs in an effort to recognize and honor those individuals or groups who have provided outstanding support to the fair industry. Recipients are those who have provided volunteer services, educational services and sponsors.
Matheron is being recognized for her service and dedication to the fair, according to CEO Tom Musser.
“Barbara enjoyed chairing the Junior Livestock Auction Committee and had it very well organized,” he said. “Every year she helped work the auction from beginning to end.”
When the fair faced some tough budget cuts after all of California’s fairs lost 100 percent of their state funding, Musser said, “Barbara was very helpful when we had to make some very difficult decisions. We didn’t always agree, but she backed the decisions that were made.”
After all the years she devoted to the fair, whether it was in the animal barns, at the livestock auction or the board room, Matheron considers the fair "a second home."
“You make friends from different towns and schools and those friendships continue because your lives are intertwined. It’s like we’re all one big family. Each fair is like a homecoming, to be a part of that is really rewarding," she said.
Matheron and her husband, Duane, run Hilmar Holsteins, a family-owned and operated dairy farm established in 1956 by her husband’s grandfather. The couple’s sons are working in the family business.
Since Matheron’s livelihood is in agriculture, she’s an avid supporter of continuing to strengthen the link between the fair and ag education.
“If you eat and wear clothes you’re involved in ag,” she said. “The fair is the best avenue for ag education.”
Matheron was named Hilmar Citizen of the Year in 2004. She earned the honor for extensive community involvement, including helping to establish the Hilmar High School Sober Graduation celebration as well as playing an active role at Hilmar’s Holy Rosary Church. She is a member of California Women for Agriculture and California Dairy Women and has served on the Board of Directors of Hospice of Emanuel Hospital in Turlock.