THE AMADOR COUNTY FAIR - A BIT OF HISTORY
The 26th District Agricultural Association’s first fair was held in Ione in 1887. It was called the “Amador and Sacramento County Annual Fair.” The forerunner of our Entry Guide was called the Premium List and Speed Program, the latter referring to the very popular Harness races held on the track located in what is now Howard Park. That track had a reputation for being one of the fastest in California.
In 1938 the Fair moved to Plymouth and was held under a large tent on the playground area of what is now Plymouth Elementary School.. Those first 8.06 acres of the fair grounds were purchased from J.M. and Gladys Loyd in 1940 for the sum of $ 1,250. Lubenko sold the Fair an additional ½ acre in 1941 and in 1947 the Detert Estate sold another 23 acres to the association, also for $ 1,250…in reality, a gift to the people of Amador County in memory of W. F. Detert. In 1955, 5½ acres were sold to Oro Madre School District for the Elementary School, and then the final 5 acres were acquired from the Grielich family for $ 7,470, a total of $ 309 per acre. The cost was recovered from the newly established Fairs and Expositions Fund which received a small portion of the betting handle from the newly legalized gambling on Horse Racing (The 1933 Horse Racing Act). There has been a fair every year since, with the exception of the World War II years at which time all fairs in California were postponed.
Harold Colburn presided over the first Board of Directors, and held the position of President for some twenty years, then continued on as a member of the Board until his retirement in 1985, a total of forty-seven years of service. In the early days, Harold used to get on the old crank two-piece phone and call the Governor’s office direct, and the Governor would answer! They would then discuss board member appointments and finances for the fair.
Many community leaders have served on the Board of Directors, appointed by the Governor to serve 4 year terms. Included in the list of those who have served are Martin Lubenko; Ben Sanguinetti; I. P. Ostrom; Sam Bonneau; Al Dickerson; Lester Wheeler; John Yager; Charles Winter; E. J. Votaw; Archie Fancher; Walter Steiner; Loren Bamert; Elias Day; Johnny Manassero; Bob Cooper; Sharkey Begovich; Lewis C. Yager; Fred Geis; Lucian Vaira; Leslie Pantle; Fred Spruance; Miss Louise Hall; John Huberty; Frank Berry; Sheldon Rodman; Roy E. Mason, DVM; Janice Taylor Howard; Norman Dal Porto; Sandra Strohm; Don Whitney; Libby Littlefield; Gary Arnese; David Mason III; Hap Evans; Marlene Linn; Verna Bowman; James Graves; Richard Forster; Sandra Frey; Jeannie Deaver; Stephen Zalkind and the present Board is Tim King, Charles Simmons, Frank Halvorson, Michael Boitano, Ciro Toma,, Robert Manassero, Marilyn Hoopes, Janice Taylor Howard, and Connie Mason.
Louise Hall, Home Economics teacher at Amador High School and long time member of the Board of Directors, was also extremely instrumental in the promotion of still exhibits for both adults and youth. Miss Hall’s legacy continues at the Fair and throughout the community in the volunteer spirit which makes the Amador County Fair so special.
Director Ciro Toma, first appointed to the Amador County Fair Board of Directors in 1974 has served the Western Fairs Association (WFA) as President in 2001 and was inducted into the WFA Hall of Fame in 2004. He is only the second Board member to serve as President of WFA the service organization representing more than 150 Fairs West of the Mississippi.
All of the members of the Board have given their time and talents and energy to the Fair, helping secure its position as a cherished element of the County. They continue to do so.
When telling the story of the Amador County Fair Evelyn Bishop must be included. Evelyn gave the Fair a consummate volunteer who tended the flowers, oversaw the Junior Building exhibits, promoted 4-H throughout the County, and established the standard for landscaping that continues to delight Fair patrons today. Evelyn gave of her time until the age of 90 when she finally retired. Although she departed this life in 1993, those who knew her well will tell you that stepping in the flower beds or wading in “Evelyn’s Pond” can still bring down her wrath. So many have given so much to the Amador County Fair and to the community it’s impossible to list them all in this space.
The day to day management of the Fair has been provided by a surprisingly small number of people. Jim Loyd was the named manager when the Board was formed in 1938 with Ruth Cooper serving as Secretary. Goula Waite was appointed to the position of Secretary-Manager of the Fair in 1941 and served until 1965 when she accepted the position of Exhibit Supervisor for the State of California, traveling to all the Fairs to audit their premium records and casting fear into the hearts of all entry clerks. During her tenure at the Amador County Fair she scoured the countryside to gather the pieces of history used in the construction of Frontier Town. The beveled glass window, the marble barber sink, the spectacular breakfront are all the results of her efforts. Her creative talents are responsible for the layout of the Fairgrounds which are ideal in terms of pedestrian traffic, vendor access and livestock and carnival needs.
In 1966 Dick Cooper assumed the reins of the Fair, overseeing the grounds and the event through 1971. His interest in antique equipment can be seen today during the Fair in the actual operation of the Saw Mill which he acquired. Dick today is a well recognized member of the Sheandoah Valley wine grape growers and vintners, participating in the Friday night Wine Tasting. His winery has garnered an award winning reputation, an accomplishment he can add to his standing as a band leader, renown in the area.
Pete Scott accepted the position in 1972 bringing his extensive creative talents. The architectural facet was manifest in the original Wine Garden, a unique facility for a Fair, as well as the covered bridge, the “old well” drinking fountains, and the rustic Main Gate facade. The artist gift can be seen in the varied and distinctive posters produced by his hand. When he left in 1977 he took a position at the California State Fair where he continued to create unusual and provocative exhibits.
Ralph Clark followed in 1978 serving as Chief Executive Officer until his retirement at the end of 2004. During his management of 27 Fairs, he encouraged and facilitated community participation, the level of which is envied by all of California’s small Fairs. As a nationally recognized cattle judge, he was able to generated significant interim use of the Fairgrounds by the Livestock Stock community, bringing many shows and sales to the County. During his term, he served on the Board of Western Fairs Association, an organization established to protect and promote the Fair industry in the West. He was elected to the organizations presidency in 1989 and inducted into their Hall of Fame in 2003 for his distinguished service and leadership in the Fair Industry.
Following Ralph, his wife Susan L Clark accepted the CEO position and served until late 2007. Susie has many years of experience with the Fair industry and the Amador County Fair. She started in the Entry Department and went on to be the CEO for the El Dorado County Fair for more than 20 years. In an industry where families often work shoulder to shoulder it's rare that a husband and wife are both CEO's. Susie claims numerous accommodations for her dedication and service to the Fair industry and was inducted into the WFA Hall of Fame in 2011. The only husband and wife team to share the highest honor from WFA.
B. Troy Bowers joined the team as CEO in 2007. Troy is a second generation Fair Manager following his father who managed the Kings District Fair in Hanford for more than 22 years. Troy has worked in nearly every capacity of the fair industry from maintenance, exhibits, satellite racing and more. Troy’s family was the first in the nation to utilize and implement computer technology in process entries at fairs and Troy provided computer services at most of the fairs in California and Arizona.