What makes fairs different, and why ours is unique
By Laurie Giannini
March 12, 2013
With a history dating back to the 1800s, county fairs are an enduring tradition in society. California has 54 district agricultural associations, and the primary function of these associations is to promote agriculture through hosting a county fair.
In 1859, President Abraham Lincoln expanded on the mission of fairs, saying, “agricultural fairs are becoming an institution of the country; they are useful in more ways than one; they bring us together, and thereby make us better acquainted, and better friends than we otherwise would be.”
Agriculture is promoted at fairs through the competitive exhibits program. Each year, both children and adults show off their prize livestock and crops, which are a culmination of months of hard work.
Street fairs and festivals do not have the same mission as California fairs. Most competitions entered by exhibitors at the fair have a distinct purpose to educate the fair-going public. Today, the scope of competitions has expanded to the arts, ag mechanics, writing and technology. The result of exhibiting at the fair is a sense of pride, community and accomplishment. Plus, you might win a fabulous ribbon.
Information to enter a competition at the Calaveras County Fair can be found in the Exhibit Guide Book. Exhibit guide books are available at the County Library, the UC Extension Office, the fair’s administration office and at frogtown.org.
The fair board has created new contests to add to the annual celebration. The Cowboy Up competition is just for men, and the areas of competition include salsa, salami, peppers, jerky and beer. Additionally, there will be cowboy hat and boot decorating contests and much more. The 2013 fair will feature arena games for our little buckaroos including stick horse racing, sack races and other interactive games.
But the premier contest at the Calaveras County Fair is the jumping frog contest. As the exhibits program makes a fair different from a festival, the jumping frog contest makes the Calaveras County Fair unique. The story first penned by Mark Twain in 1865 has inspired a tradition that is 85 years old. People visit the website and constantly inquire about this quirky little competition. For some, this competition is serious business, and they prepare annually to make the trip to Angels Camp to participate in the event.
The Calaveras County Fair will feature four stages of entertainment, children’s activities, a carnival, the Barrel of Monkeez, great food and shopping. Tradition, family and community describe the spirit of Calaveras County Fair. It is a meeting place for friends, family and neighbors. The fair is a place to be entertained and educated at the same time. In his show “California’s Golden Fairs,” the late Huell Howser described the Calaveras County Fair as “a traditional fair with a world famous competition.”
The Board of Directors and the Friends of the Calaveras County Fair will be hosting a Fair preview night at 6:30 p.m. March 13 at the fairgrounds in the Frogeteria. Attendees have a chance to learn about volunteering, to ask questions about the Calaveras County Fair & Jumping Frog Jubilee running May 16 through 19, and to meet the people behind the scenes at the fair. For more information, contact the administration office at 736-2561 or visit frogtown.org.