More than 35,000 people attended the Glenn County Fair, held in Orland, California May 15 through May 18. That's a 12 percent increase over last year, said Susan Taylor, CEO and fair manager for four years.
Final numbers aren't yet in, but estimates are that gross sales at the fair were also up by quite a bit.
"Food was up about 10 percent, and beer was up about 10 percent," said Taylor, in a press release.
Some of the big news for this primarily agricultural fair is that local high school student Jonathan Romano's market lamb sold for a whopping $13,680. Romano's lamb netted $80 a pound. Lambs typically sell between $7 to $14 a pound, said Mikaela Hanes, 14, also in a press release. Hanes belongs to the Orland 4-H club.
She said the unusually high price for the lamb came after a group of buyers pitched in to bid up the price of the lamb to help Romano, who is battling brain cancer.
The fair is owned by the state of California. However, the fair receives no state funding. The highlight of the Glenn County Fair for many youth is the livestock auction. Glenn County's 4H and FFA members took in $638,777 in gross sales this year, an increase of $67,032 over last year, according to Taylor.
The fair started in 1916 and is celebrating its 98th anniversary this year. The fair now has buildings and facilities available to rent all year long which accommodate groups from 20 to 20,000 people. Fair officials say their goal is to have the facilities rented all year, said Taylor.
The Miss Glenn County Fair pageant was another highlight of the fair, according to Taylor. Hunter Dupee won the title with first runner up Julie Garcia and second runner up Xygna Orozco. Julie Garcia also was selected as Miss Congeniality for the contest. The pageant was held the opening night of the fair.
The winner of the pageant, Dupee, who is an 18-year-old senior at Orland High School, will represent the fair and her home county at various fairs and events for the next 12 months. She won a $500 scholarship for her win. Dupee plans to attend Menlo College, a private four-year college in Atherton, to become a motivational speaker and life coach.
The other girls are also seniors at Orland High School. The pageant has been overhauled this year with a new pageant director and a new format.
Taylor said that Shirley Ceccon, who was crowned the very first Miss Glenn County in 1954 and attended this year's pageant, said she loved the new format. Fifty percent of this year's contest was based on the contestants' community service, participation and private interviews with the judges. Both of the runners-up earned smaller scholarships to continue their education.
The Glenn County Fair Parade was held on Saturday and was sponsored by the Orland Chamber of Commerce. Parade winners included: Mounted Group – Glenn County Sheriff's Posse; Decorated Vehicle – Glenn County Princesses and past royalty; Novelty/Comic – the Kraemer family; Equipment – vintage iron branch 136; auto – Marjorie and Jerry Palmer; floats – First Baptist Church of Orland.
Taylor said the good weather played an important part in fair attendance. Temperatures in May can be from the 80s to over 100 degrees, she said. This year, temperatures remained in the 80s for most of the four-day fair, she said.
"Everybody seemed to enjoy the mild temperatures," she said. "I think the weather played a big part in our increased attendance."
Orland is a small, agriculturally-based community in the heart of the Sacramento Valley on Interstate 5 at Highway 32. Orland is 100 miles north of Sacramento, 20 miles west of Chico and is located midway between Los Angeles and Portland.
Orland normally has cool, wet winters and hot, dry summers. Snow is rare, but, every so often, a light dusting of snow occurs. The economy of the small town revolves around farming. The main commodities grown are almonds, olives, dairy products, hay and citrus fruits.
Fair manager Taylor said things are looking up for the fair despite tight finances and the loss of state funding.
"We have done a lot of budget cuts behind the scenes," she said. She added that the public shouldn't notice the changes. Everything should look the same.
The midway this year was handled by Butler Amusements. The company has worked the midway for "years and years," said Taylor. The company brought more than 20 rides, including roller coasters, Energy Slam and the Scrambler.
Butler Amusements is based in Fairfield, California and has been in business for more than 40 years.
Friday was Kids Day, when children 12 and under could enter the fair free from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Gates opened at noon, and the festivities included strolling entertainers, an interactive veterinary science workshop, milking and butter churning, funnel cake eating contests, a magic show and more during the afternoon and evening hours culminating in a tractor pull in the grandstands at 7 p.m.
Saturday was senior day, when those 65 and older entered the fair free between the hours of 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. On Saturday at 7 p.m. there was a demolition derby held in the grandstands.
"The destruction derby is always huge," said Taylor. "People like smashing things."
The crowds also loved the "Eye of the Tiger" demonstration put on by the Hollywood Tigers, said Taylor.
"They're trained movie tigers, and they perform," she said. "The tigers were super popular."
Fairgoers got to see how the tigers are trained to go on their marks and growl on cue for movies.
Family Day was held on Sunday, the closing day of the fair.
There were exhibits at the fair featuring photography, artwork, crafts, clothing and more in Flaherty Hall and the arts and crafts building. A general store connected to the Glenn County Farmers Market also was opened throughout the fair at the Whitsett-Cook Building. The market featured honey, olives, cheeses and other locally grown products from area producers.
Fair officials are already hard at work on the Glenn County Fair's 100th anniversary, to be held in 2016.