Officials at the Tri-County Fairgrounds are seeking outside funds to preserve the integrity and traditional benefits of one of the Eastern Sierra’s most popular, youth-oriented events.
Fair CEO Jim Tatum said the elimination of state funding has made it necessary to solicit additional financial support for the 2012 Junior Horse Show and Junior Livestock Show.
Last year, California legislators and the governor decided to cut all funding to county and state fairs. This includes approximately $200,000 in lost revenue for the Tri-County Fairgrounds that operates on an annual budget of $900,000.
Fair secretary Rebecca Bragdon said the Fairgrounds provides about $15,000 worth of prizes for participants in the auction and horse show, in addition to paying for hotel rooms for professional judges brought in from outside the county.
Fair CEO Jim Tatum said that the fairgrounds’ tab for the junior horse show and livestock auction runs between $25,000 and $30,000 when staff and utilities are included.
“The lion’s share of the funds that we need are for awards,” Tatum said. “I don’t even include permanent staff or utilities in that.”
More than 200 children and teenagers from Inyo, Mono and neighboring Nevada counties participate in the Junior Livestock Show every July and between 50 and 75 participate in the Junior Horse Show at the end of June.
The Fairgrounds is hoping to get enough donations to cover the cost of prizes and awards.
“The 4-H clubs have stepped up and said they would help provide some money, but being nonprofits, they don’t have a lot of resources,” Bragdon said.
Donations of any amount will be accepted from any group or individual.
“Anyone who had a good time as a child in the program, if you donate $25 it could be a bunch of ribbons or a showmanship prize,” Bragdon said.
In the past, the Fairgrounds has been able to contribute to the Junior Livestock Auction and Horse Show with the help of a number of sponsors. Bragdon said this year, those sponsors are experiencing tough times and can only contribute half or a quarter of what they usually donate.
Bragdon also said that if the Fairgrounds is not able to raise the $15,000 needed for prizes, the show will still go on. “We will just need to cut back on the awards we give.”
Currently the fairgrounds provides a number of ribbons and belt buckles for prizes. Tatum said that the price for materials such as the silver and gold used for the belt buckles is going up.
In addition to the prestige of taking awards at the Junior Livestock Show and Horse Show, students who participate learn about sustainable food and how to raise, care for and breed animals.
The auction also provides the students with a financial benefit. The kids spend months raising, feeding and exercising a variety of animals that are put on the auction block and are purchased by local businesses and individuals. The purchasers get fresh, home-grown meat, while the students learn about money management, getting to keep any profit from the sale after feed and other materials are deducted.
Bragdon said Fairgrounds officials have considered some kind of fundraiser or sponsor drive. However, with only four staff members, the Fairgrounds doesn’t have the resources to organize such an event. “To do that, we would need a Friends of the Fairgrounds group or something like that,” she said.
Tatum said that many long-time contributors are still planning to provide money for the event, but more interest is needed.
Since first issuing the call for financial support, Tatum said there have been several calls from local business owners and individuals expressing an interest in donating funds.
“You’ve just gotta turn that interest into actual involvement,” Tatum said. “The event raises between $200,000 and $250,000 for the kids, and we’ve got to be careful because we don’t want to impact that. This is a great event for these kids. They put a lot of time and effort into it.”
Tatum said donations for the event will be accepted right up until the events start.
“Of course, earlier is better, that way we can plan what we’re going to do,” he said.
Anyone who is interested in donating funds for the Junior Livestock Show and Auction or Junior Horse Show is invited to call the Fairgrounds at (760) 873-3588 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .