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‘Drive-Thru’ Fair Food Fest Starts Friday, Oct. 30

While a traditional California Mid-Winter Fair in 2021 is still very much up in the air, fair officials are working to give the Valley at least some events that conform to COVID-19 restrictions, according to a news release from the organizers of the fair.

A major example is a “Drive-Thru Fair Food Festival” that will be on the grounds the next two weekends. The other is a modified and limited livestock event that will allow youths to raise and market their animals.

“We have stated, and will continue to state, that our goal is to hold our annual fair as we have for the past decades,” fair Chief Executive Officer Alan Phillips stated in the press release. “Unfortunately, the decision on whether we will be allowed to do that does not lie within the organization. The fair board will continue to monitor local and state guidelines in order to evaluate what we are able to do for 2021.”

Phillips said the Food Festival “is being held to lend support to our fair food vendors who have had a very bleak year in 2020.” Folks seeking some traditional spiral fries, funnel cakes, corn dogs, deep-fried confections and more are invited to drive through the grounds on an established route.

The first phase of the festival opens this Friday, Oct. 30, and will run through Sunday, Nov. 1. It will reconvene the following Friday, Nov. 6, through Sunday, Nov. 8. Times on both Fridays are 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday times are 1 to 8 p.m. Traffic will enter through the main entrance off Second Street in Imperial. Menus and maps will be provided when vehicles enter.

Meanwhile, local youths seeking to raise market animals will have that opportunity, but with drastically altered procedures.

At its October meeting, the fair board made some decisions to address lingering questions.

“The California Department of Food and Agriculture has stated market animals are essential to the food chain. With that, fairs have been submitting plans to request conducting a ‘grading’ show whereby animals are shown (under health and safety parameters) and are graded by a judge for their marketability,” the board noted in a letter sent to potential exhibitors. 

It approved a recommendation, based on current conditions, to prepare for a grading show for 2021.

“This will certainly be different than our shows in the past and there will be new rules as well as old rules that will be followed. Because this is new for all of us, we don’t have all the new rules and or policies at this time. We will utilize the rules from the 2020 show, and will amend/change those as needed to accommodate this new show,” the board noted in the letter.

A few of those known changes are:

● The show will be terminal: no animals which show will be allowed to go back home nor allowed to be sold to anyone other than a designated processor.

● Animals will be health checked and any that do not pass will immediately be sent back home with the exhibitor.

● Exhibitors will receive market price and the fair will conduct an online add-on process to allow for the community to contribute to the exhibitor projects.

● All animals will be classed based on weights; no breed classes.

● It will be a dry show. No washing, clipping or grooming of animals will be permitted on premises.

● 4-H and FFA will show together.

● DNA is still required.

● The Youth for Quality Care of Animals (YQCA) certification is still required.

The fair is required to submit a plan for approval to the California Department of Food and Agriculture through the Imperial County Health Department. “So, it is important to reiterate that although this is the direction we are going, we can still be told we have to change course,” the letter noted.

The plan “will include many requirements such as masks, distancing, and other requirements we have become accustomed to while living in this pandemic. We are uncertain at this time whether we will be allowed to have spectators on site, and if so what the requirements and limitations would be,” the letter added.

The fair board, in partnership with the California Mid-Winter Fair Heritage Foundation, will also be enhancing facility communication infrastructure to allow live streaming of all the shows. 

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