Independence residents Rich and Kathy White, and their team of volunteers from throughout Inyo County, are at it again.
For the eighth year in row, the couple have spearheaded the effort to take an Inyo County exhibit to the California State Fair’s California Counties showcase. And for the eighth year in a row, the exhibit designed by the Whites and put together with the help of businesses and agencies from all over the Eastern Sierra is an award-winner.
According to the Whites, Inyo County received a Silver Award for its display, designed around the 2014 State Fair Counties Exhibits theme “From Our County to Your Table.”
To earn recognition at the State Fair is quite an honor for a rural county such as Inyo, especially considering the competition the local team is up against.
While larger counties are known to shell out as much as $30,000 to $60,000 for exhibits built by professional firms, the Whites’ entire budget – provided by the county – is $13,000, and half of that goes to pay for volunteers’ travel expenses.
“Some other counties had larger display areas but none had all the features that we had, nor were as busy,” said Bishop resident Mike Johnston, who, along with wife DeEtte, helped to staff Inyo’s State Fair exhibit this past Monday and Tuesday. “Rich and Kathy White did a tremendous job.”
The California State Fair opened Friday, July 11 at Cal Expo in Sacramento. Local residents such as the Johnstons will take “shifts” of a couple days or more throughout the fair’s 17-day run, but the Whites will be in attendance from beginning to end.
That commitment is part of what earned the couple The Inyo Register’s “Perpetual Motion Award” last year – an honor bestowed by an independent panel of residents from Bishop to Lone Pine.
The Whites first attended the State Fair with an exhibit in 1999. At the time, they were representing the now-defunct Independence Chamber of Commerce as part of what was intended to be an ongoing, rotating presence at the State Fair through the also-now-defunct County Coalition of Chambers. The effort fell by the wayside in 2004 and again in 2006, but was resurrected at the insistence of the Whites in 2007, working as individuals wanting to promote their county. They’ve been attending the annual event every since.
As usual, the exhibit highlights some of the best that Inyo County has to offer to both visitors and potential new residents.
In fitting with the theme of “From Our County To Your Table,” Inyo’s exhibit features a table of local products that, according to the Whites, are available online and outside the local area, including Crystal Geyser water, Schat’s Bakkery bread, Mahogany Smoked Meats jerky, China Ranch dates, Baxter honey, plates created by Drew Wickman, a pine needle basket woven by Priscilla Maxey and lavender from De La Cour Ranch.
“The Inyo-Mono Agricultural Commissioner’s Office provided photos and statistics of the ag production in the county,” Rich and Kathy wrote in an email update earlier this week. “Lone Pine FFA and the Inyo Cattlemen’s Association provided panels showing several of the local ranches and their activities. Southern Inyo Growers created a panel with photos of local food products available at our farmer’s markets.”
Eastern California Museum contributed to a display that contains historic farming photos.
The exhibit also showcases other types of resources produced or harvested in Inyo County. According to the Whites, a power pole with signage shows that Inyo produces and exports power for more than 150,000 households. “A three-foot by five-foot map of the county shows most of the historic and current mines and a display case contains a variety of ore specimens,” they added.
Of course, the exhibit also showcases Inyo County’s more famous attractions, events and attributes.
The Whites noted that since Inyo County’s main industry is tourism, panels and videos show Laws Railroad Museum, Mt. Whitney Hatchery, Lone Pine Film History Museum, Mule Days, High School Rodeo, Manzanar National Historic Site, Death Valley National Park. Additional photos have been provided by local photographers, they said.
In all, “there are five TV screens, 14 wall panels with pictures and posters, two display cases, a literature rack and two Inyo county people to meet and greet everyone. The open arrangement allows people to walk through and see all the various features that our county offers,” said Johnston, who estimated contacting more than 2,000 visitors on Monday and Tuesday alone.
“It was surprising how many people did not know anything about our county so it was fun pointing out all our highlights,” he said.
Keeping the exhibit staffed at all times has always been key to the Whites and is a major contributing factor to their success at the show.
Other volunteers helping to staff the exhibit daily are Jay Smart, Perry and Sally White, Michel and Jane Wehrey, Greg and Laura Smith, Matt Kingsley and Brad Thorn.
Local residents will have a chance to see the Inyo County State Fair exhibit at the Tri-County Fair in Bishop over Labor Day Weekend.