Rallying for the kids

·4 min read

Aug. 5—Within minutes of the announcement that the 2022 Siskiyou Golden Fair had been canceled this week due to the McKinney Fire burning in Siskiyou County, Jackson County Expo Director Helen Baker's phone was ringing off the hook.

Siskiyou County fairgrounds officials had to relinquish their facility for fire operations, making for the second canceled summer fair in three years. The fairgrounds are housing some 2,500 firefighters using the facility as base for operations related to the McKinney Fire.

Fairgrounds officials for both Siskiyou and Jackson counties said it tugged on their heartstrings for junior livestock presenters not get to show and sell their animals, after investing heavily in raising them.

The show, Baker said, must go on. So she announced Wednesday that a junior livestock show and sales will be hosted at The Expo next weekend, Aug. 12-14.

Volunteers have signed on to transport animals and families, as well as provide meals.

"It was never a question of whether or not we would do everything we could," Baker said. "But I was tickled at the number of people, the minute they heard it was canceled, who were calling and texting and emailing saying, 'Is there not anything you can do for them? Please help these kids."

Cliff Munson, CEO at the Siskiyou Golden Fair, said his heart sank for the kids as soon as the fairgrounds had to transition for emergency use.

"It wasn't the fair board's choice to cancel the fair. As soon as the governor declared that Siskiyou County was in a state of emergency, the fair had to be canceled. Obviously, we could not have had a less opportune time for the McKinney Fire to break out, two weeks before the fair," Munson said.

"While it wasn't our choice to have the fairgrounds taken over, everyone has come together to make sure the kids will not be left behind. There is a huge group of kids who have now had two out the last three fairs canceled, first for the pandemic and now this fire. We really cannot express our appreciation enough to all those folks in Southern Oregon who are opening their arms to these kids.

Darrin Mercier, president of the 10 District Junior Livestock Auction Committee, said Jackson County and Siskiyou County were committed to ensuring a fair experience as close to normal as possible.

"The bottom line is these kids have been devastated by COVID already, and they were finally out of that, and then this fire hits. Our goal is that every kid who raised an animal has a chance to show and sell that animal at fair," Mercier said.

Animals to be shown and auctioned include steers, heiffers, rabbits, poultry, turkeys, goats, sheep and hogs.

Evans Transportation and the Alturas Indian Reservation signed on to transport families back and forth, Friday through Sunday. Vendors are being lined up for meals, and volunteers are signing up to help haul animals to The Expo.

"We've got other people trying to find ways to have some activities at the fairgrounds for these kids to enjoy between events," Mercier added. "There won't be the usual carnival or games, so they're trying to create a couple little, fun things for them to do, just to try and make this as normal an experience as we can."

Baker said a long history of partnership between the two fairgrounds, which boast similar-sized facilities, would hopefully provide a near "plug and play experience" for the Siskiyou event to happen at The Expo in Central Point.

Organizers expect some 250 kids to show animals next weekend.

Baker hopes that both counties will turn out in droves to support the kids. The auction will be hosted in real time as well as online.

"I think this shows more and more that the agricultural community is like one big family. For the two ag communities, and the two fairgrounds, to pull together across state lines is very heartwarming," Baker said.

"I hope that both communities will come out in a big way. I think everyone will realize what a huge effort it took for those families to be here, and for the show to continue. I think everyone will want to get behind those kids in a big way."

Mercier said it was "a really big blessing" to be handed a backup facility for the kids to use.

"CAL-FIRE has our fairgrounds, and we need that to protect our community. But we need to protect our kids, too."

To view the livestock auctions online, at 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 13-14, see sisqfair.equipmentfacts.com.

For information, see www.sisqfair.com/

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Buffy Pollock at 541-776-8784 or bpollock@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @orwritergal.