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Fairgrounds - Farm to Ferris Wheel Logo
Farm to Ferris Wheel 2020

Ag Auctions, Dirt-Track Action, Music Jams Lead 2020 Fair

IMPERIAL VALLEY — It’s been a year of rebranding for the California Mid-Winter Fair & Fiesta, not as a means to “reinvent” but as a way to “remind” fairgoers where it came from and what the fair stands for.

“The theme ‘Farm to Ferris Wheel’ sprouted from our rebranding this year. … Growing up, all the big events were at the ‘fairgrounds,’” fourth-year fair manager Alan Phillips said during a recent interview. “The history of this facility is embedded in the community, so we rebranded it the I.V. Fairgrounds from I.V. Expo.”

The fair opens at 3 p.m. Feb. 28 and at noon on Feb. 29, March 1, 7 and 8. During the week, the fair opens at 5 p.m. All buildings close at 10 p.m. daily.

Regular-price admissions will be $10 for adults and $8 for children and seniors, $5 for parking and a carnival wristband is $35. Admission on March 2 is $5 for everyone.

The new name led to a new look as well.

“In developing a motif and logo, one of the important things (to communicate) was ‘Farm to Ferris Wheel’ to highlight the agricultural elements of our community,” and focus on the tradition of a fun experience, Phillips said.

One could argue the 121st edition of the fair gets back to basics by adding features that hearken to a gloriously golden era. That was when the fair meant livestock shows and auctions with an emphasis on ag education, when racing events at the grandstands were plentiful, and midway rides were king.

Ag Focus

It almost goes without saying the fair starts and ends with action in the livestock areas. During opening weekend and throughout the week hundreds of local children and teens show off their months of hard work and dedication on livestock and animal projects. They vie for showmanship ribbons and awards and compete in round-robin events, all in preparation for the major auctions of the final weekend.

On March 6-7, tens of thousands of dollars will change hands as qualifying animal projects, big and small, are sold off to the highest bidders.

With that in mind, Phillips said the former Doc’s Barn has been expanded to become Doc’s Pavilion, a hospitality suite of sorts where fairgoers can rest and take part in learning more about agriculture.

Phillips said the emphasis on ag-related education and fun can be experienced at Doc’s Pavilion through the ongoing presence of Farm Smart representatives from the Imperial County Desert Research and Extension Center in Holtville.

There will be multiple daily staging of entertainer Bob Bohm’s “Farm-ily Feud” game show. Teams will battle to test their knowledge of farming, livestock and ag products, combined with silly skill games to declare the “number 1 farmer.”

Dirt Track to Light Up

In the nod to tradition, there will be six dirt-track events at the grandstands, including motorcycle, sprint and dwarf-car racing, a demolition derby and a monster truck rally, Phillips said.

A monster truck exhibition kicks off opening night, Feb. 28, followed by flat track and track and trail motorcycle racing events both Feb. 29 and March 1.

A demolition derby will be held March 4, and lighting-sprint and dwarf-car racing will be on the track both days of the final weekend, March 7-8. The Heritage 500 jalopy race also will take place on March 8.

Live Performers

Phillips said there will be a good mix of entertainment fairgoers can find at any time, including musical performances.

New to the Casa De Mañana building this year will be “MindWorks,” a science, technology, engineering, arts and math activity for children. It takes the form of mind-bendingly large versions of classic board games like Operation, Battleship, Simon Says, and Scrabble that challenge the brain, Phillips said.

Live entertainment will include the return of hypnotist Susie Haner and Godfrey the Magician to the Palm Oasis Stage and one-man band Washboard Willie, who will roam the fairgrounds.

The Mechanics Bank Center Stage, which has replaced the grandstand for the main music acts, will feature a lineup of tribune bands. Those will include Hot August Nights, a Neil Diamond Tribute on Feb. 28; ‘80s rockers Checker’d Past, Feb. 29; Garth Guy, a tribute to Garth Brooks and Left of Centre, March 4; an Elton John Tribute, March 5; Noise Pollution, a tribute to AC/DC, March 6; and Anthem Road, March 7. 

There will also be three Día De La Familia concerts on March 1 featuring Los Originales de la Baja, Pancho Felix and La Nueva Adiccion, all on the Mechanics Bank Center Stage.

Students Get the Spotlight

High School Madness returns on March 2, with local high school students competing to see who has the most spirit through a mix of competitions that include cheerleading and drumlines.

With the grandstands packed with high school students, Phillips said a livestream will bring the action to mobile devices and computers via the fair’s website..

Precautions Taken

Phillips warned there will be some changes this year, including a strictly enforced no-food policy for the animal barns. The Imperial County fair board made the move following an e coli outbreak at the San Diego County Fair in 2019 that was traced to the livestock area.

Multiple hand-washing stations will be installed near the barns and in the immediate vicinity,  Phillips said. Visitors are encouraged to use them after visiting the barns, including cleaning off stroller or wheelchair wheels before leaving the fairgrounds. For additional information, people can call the fair office at (760) 355-1181 or visit the website ivfairgrounds.com

This story is featured in the Feb 27, 2020 e-Edition.

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