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State budget cuts could deflate county fairs
Merced County Spring Fair in Los Banos could close entirely or experience a drastically reduced fair, if Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed elimination of fair funding goes through. - photo by Journal file photo

Governor Jerry Brown’s current budget proposal includes a 100 percent reduction in California county fair funding, slashing $32 million from fair budgets across the state. If the budget is approved, nearly 30 county fairs could permanently or temporarily close. 

The Stanislaus County Fair, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this summer, would see little impact.

 “We would only lose $115,000, which is 2 percent of our overall operating budget,” said Chief Executive Officer Chris Borovansky. “The fair is not going anywhere, if the cuts come down fair visitors wouldn’t see any changes.”

The fair opens for its 100th anniversary celebration on July 15 for a 10-day run.

Borovansky indicated any cuts to the fair would be internal; fees would remain the same price and fair-related employment would not likely be affected.

“It is premature right now to say what would be cut but I would say we will have to look at all programs.

“It’s really a credit to our Board of Directors and the hard work and tremendous support of the community. We are stable and a fiscally established business,” said Borovansky.

Unlike Stanislaus however, neighboring Merced County Spring Fair in Los Banos could close entirely or experience a drastically reduced fair.

“If there isn’t a relief from the state cuts or help from the community closing is a very strong possibility,” said Fair Manager Ron Brandt.

The summer fair in Merced could see huge impacts. Tom Musser, chief executive officer, said the fair is already operating on a “shoe string budget.” The budget cut would slash $200,000 to the fair’s $1.75 million total budget.

“We already cut $200,000 last year, so it’s going to be tough and we will have to be very careful,” Musser said.

According to the Western Fairs Association, the proposed budget cuts could cost California’s general fund $57.4 million in annual revenue.

“The fair network generates more than $126 million in direct tax income for the state every year,” said Stephen Chambers of the California Fairs Alliance. “That represents nearly a four-to-one return on the state’s overall $32 million investment. In this light, the budget plan actually dries up an income stream.”

Along with an income lost directly from fair revenue there could be additional losses in local tax revenue from gas stations, hotel and restraints.

“If you come here during the fair you can’t get a hotel room, they are all booked. People basically live here (Merced) for a week,” said Musser.

To contact Jonathan McCorkell, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.