Stanislaus County Fair – History, Postponement & What’s Next?

When the announcement came out on April 24th that the 2020 Stanislaus County Fair was being postponed until 2021, the community was surprised as it came earlier than I think people expected for such a big decision to be made. The Fair is an event that not only the Turlock community looks forward to, but people from all over the Central Valley come out to enjoy! We spoke with Adrenna Alkhas, Marketing and Communications Director for the Stanislaus County Fair, to get information on the history of the Fair, what the Fair has planned for this summer, and what you as the community can do to support the Fair due to its postponement. 

Can you give a brief history on the Stanislaus County Fair?

In 1911, the Turlock Melon Carnival took place for the first time, sponsored by the Turlock Chamber of Commerce. The Turlock Melon Carnival was an effort to promote and market the local melon industry and shipping business. The Melon Carnival lasted only a few years, and in 1924, the American Legion Rex Ish Post 88 organized a 4th of July celebration for largely the same purpose. In 1925, the American Legion resurrected the name “Turlock Melon Carnival” for the mid-summer festival.

The 4-H and FFA livestock shows were instituted in 1933, and in 1935, the State of California issued a charter that established the 38th District Agriculture Association (DAA), which remains today. The “fair” was run jointly by the American Legion post and the DAA until 1944 when the American Legion sold the site and buildings to the DAA, which has had the sole responsibility for its operation ever since. 

In 1956, the name “Stanislaus County Fair” was used for the first time on the marquee. In 1960, the fairgrounds became the original home of California State University, Stanislaus. From a summer weekend in 1911 to a 10-day run, the Stanislaus County Fair has been a source of fun, entertainment and education for people of all ages. A record 261,089 people attended the 1989 Fair.

On March 15, 1999, the Stanislaus County Fair Board of Directors of the 38th District Agricultural Association with support from the Turlock American Legion resolved that the Stanislaus County Fair Arch Gate be recognized as a California State Point of Historical Interest. A marker was unveiled during an opening night ceremony during the 1999 Fair and is on public view just inside the historic Arch Gate. The Stanislaus County Fair celebrated its centennial fair in 2011. Over 245, 000 people attended to honor this landmark occasion.

Can you explain what was put into the decision to cancel the Fair?

On April 14th, 2020, Governor Newsom announced in a press briefing that “When you suggest June, July, August, (mass gatherings) are unlikely”. Fair officials had multiple discussions with Stanislaus County and State health officials which led to the ultimate decision to postpone to 2021 to support the Governor and slow the spread of COVID-19. Matt Cranford, chief operating officer of the Stanislaus County Fair, noted in their announcement that this is a tremendous economic impact on the fair and fair partners.  But also acknowledges that we had to do our part in the community to get through this quickly and safely.

We know the Fair has been previously cancelled twice in history, can you give more information on those circumstances?  

The Turlock Melon Carnival, which began in 1911, was cancelled during WWI. No fairs were held during World War II, although the carnivals and horse pulling events continued in the downtown area. The Fair was used as a Relocation Center for Japanese-Americans in 1942 and a Rehabilitation Center for the U.S. Army Ninth Service Command from 1943 to 1946. 

What can the community look forward to this summer from the Fair?

We are working on the drive in movie experience for the community that would include some of our local Fair food vendors and hope we can make that happen! 

What can the community do to support the Fair this year?

One of the greatest things the community can do to support the Fair is to support our livestock kids auction.  Here is the link to anyone that wants to buy an animal or just donate to the kids:

Are there other events at the fairgrounds that the community can look forward to later in the year?

We have had to postpone most of our events at the Fairgrounds, but LAC by KAT Country will be in October, unless provisions change and they have to cancel the event.  Everything is still on hold until we have further clearance by the State and we can safely be at Phase 3.

To stay up to date with the Stanislaus County Fair, you can visit Follow Stanislaus County Fair on Facebook and @stancofair on Instagram.

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