Fair time

One of the rides zips around at the San Benito County Fair in 2015.

My favorite event of the year is fast approaching – the county fair.

Before settling in the wooded surround of north Monterey County, I pounded the pavement in some of the world’s grandest metropolitan cities and yet the county fair with its blue ribbon jams, handmade quilts and prize livestock is an annual tradition I am loathe to neglect.

Being a home girl from Watsonville, I grew up going to the Santa Cruz County Fair. Even though I was as urban as any suburban child, the county fair was the place where I could learn about and get close to the cattle, pigs and chickens I only knew from books. I remember being overwhelmed by the smell of the livestock and the grandness of the horses that trotted and pranced on command.

Some years I would have an ambitious teacher who submitted artwork from our class to the fine art competition. Other years I would see a friend’s Lego display or photograph earn an Honorable Mention. When I was a teenager, my friends and I would glare at the magician and try to figure out his tricks. It was all very thrilling.

Now, I look to the county fair for other inspirations. I raise chickens so the poultry exhibit is where I can check out exotic breeds. My husband is an avid gardener so we like to see all the gorgeous floriculture displays and wonder how we can replicate a little of that hard won beauty in our own garden. And while my own forays into jam making have been disastrous, I can appreciate a nicely turned out preserve.

San Benito County has a rich agricultural legacy and the county fair is a celebration of that legacy and the hard, silent toil that sustains it. The very landscape in San Benito County appears designed for cattle grazing and one is never far from field or farm. As the county develops, too fast for some and not fast enough for others, the regional agriculture industry will develop along with it. The latest crop report shows that San Benito County remains a strong agricultural producer, with nearly $370 million in gross sales generated in 2016, an increase of $7 million over the year before.

While the types of crops may change–will cannabis or hemp ever make it the county agricultural commissioner’s annual tally? The desire to raise livestock or cultivate will continue in this land of rolling hills and golden expanses of wild grass. The San Benito County Fair takes the products of those desires and holds them up for all to see.

Entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley may float ideas of world-class race tracks on hundred plus acre parcels in the heart of San Benito County because what else would you do with so much land, but it is the farmers and the ranchers and the home makers of the region that will continue to grow, raise and craft a community that is uniquely San Benito.

The San Benito County Fair starts September 28 at Bolado Park Event Center. Advance tickets are on sale now. Information can be found at sanbenitocountyfair.com.

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