Outsiders might not notice some of the biggest changes at the Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee this year: the remodeled goat barn, the buried drains that fixed several muddy spots, or the new roof on one fair building.
But county residents know. In fact, many of them are the volunteers that made it happen.
Two years after state government ceased all funding to the various agricultural associations that operate county fairs, the Calaveras Fairgrounds are in great shape, Calaveras Fair Chief Executive Officer Laurie Giannini said.
State dollars once were used to patch potholes, now Friends of The Calaveras County Fair does the work.
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"In the last two years, the Friends of the Fair has just made a whole lot of things reality," Giannini said.
Planting daffodils that now bloom near the fair entrance was the first project two years ago, said Firman Brown, Friends of the Fair president. The group moved on to remodeling buildings, patching pipes, even setting up checking accounts and computer systems for fair functions ranging from the junior livestock auction to the Miss Calaveras scholarship contest to pay their bills and accept donations.
Changes at the fair this year, Giannini said, include a new carnival concessionaire and the fair's first motocross show May 17.The small stage in the fair's lawn area will stay open later and feature local bands.
"We have a great reggae band out of Arnold," Giannini said. "Who knew?"
Also, noticeable is that resident Laura Kitchell of Angels Camp is the defending frog jump champion. The county hasn't had a defending champ going into the fair for a while. Kitchell snapped a five-year streak in which members of the Bozos frog team of Sacramento took the top prize.
One fair fact important to many Calaveras residents is the incredible resilience of the junior livestock auction.
Each year, 600 to 800 Calaveras County children enter livestock contests. More than 300 end up auctioning an animal and walking away with cash. Despite five years of economic contraction here, the auction still yields a total take of $330,000 a year, said Ryan Sullivan, the livestock superintendent.
"This is the one group that brings all of the kids in the entire county together," Sullivan said of the junior livestock events.
Thanks to volunteers, the livestock office has a new building, and thanks to an air conditioner donated by Glory Bound Fellowship of Burson, livestock officials will no longer sizzle in the mid-May heat.