Los Banos

Spring Fair is a big draw

Los Banos native Richard “Pudge” Hansen takes a hit from both sides during the first night of destruction derby at the 2012 Merced County Spring Fair.
Los Banos native Richard “Pudge” Hansen takes a hit from both sides during the first night of destruction derby at the 2012 Merced County Spring Fair. sports@losbanosenterprise.com

With attendance topping 75,000 annually, the Merced County Spring Fair is easily the premier event in Los Banos each year.

The fair has its run from April 30 to May 4, and features entertainment, special attractions, food contests and an abundance of competitions for FFA and 4-H livestock exhibitors.

The fair is a moneymaker. The West Side event generates more than $7 million, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s fairs and expositions division. Merced County Spring Fair is part of a network of California fairs that generate more than $2.5 billion in economic activity.

The fair provides business tax revenue from the additional activity produced by the fair, its visitors and other events on the fairgrounds throughout the year.

As the Merced County Spring Fair prepares to enter its 125th year, fair management is striving to continue in the face of budget cuts.

About three years ago, the state stopped funding the fair system. Local businessmen and the Merced County Spring Fair Heritage Foundation have stepped in to raise enough funds to continue to pay out more than $40,000 in prize money to youth for projects ranging from ag mechanics to livestock.

Fundraisers have also been critical in operating the fair and attracting talent.

More then 6,000 students come to the fair through the free school tour program, which provides them with hands-on learning about agriculture. The fair includes musical entertainment, a plethora of rides, plenty of food and an abundance of contests.

New this year is a bull-riding rodeo called Jaripeo Ranchero. The event is scheduled for May 1.

What began as a spring picnic by town founder Henry Miller in 1890 has grown into an energetic community event supported by businesses, local organizations and families.

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