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Santa Barbara County Fair ready to welcome community back for first full fair since 2019

SB County Fair sign
Santa Maria Fairpark workers attach a Santa Barbara County Fair welcome sign on overhead wires Tuesday morning. (Dave Alley/KEYT)

SANTA MARIA, Calif. -- Just one day left until the Santa Barbara County Fair opens its gates to the public and holds its first full in-person fair since 2019.

After COVID-19 wiped out the 2020 fair, and forced the 2021 version in a greatly scaled-down modified format, this year's edition will essentially be held in the same format as it has traditionally been in the past.

"We are excited to be able have this come back," said Rebecca Barks, Santa Maria Fairpark Public Relations/Sponsorship Coordinator. "Not only will this be our first fair in three years that we're doing, it's also some new staff putting it on, so we're seeing a lot of the new staff, new vendors, new commercial people, and that's really been a nice touch is that everybody is really working together for the success of this county fair and we couldn't be more happier with all of our partners that we have here."

On Tuesday, final preparations are underway, with more than 100 crew members, as well as many other vendors, exhibitors, and other workers putting the final touches on the facility.

"This is the final few hours," said Lisa Ruiz, Fairpark Senior Maintenance. "We'll probably be here late, but this is what we're shooting for. We enjoy it. It's going to be awesome to be able to be ready to have everyone come here and have a great time. Please come out and visit us and come have fun. This is the place to be."

Barks pointed out the significance of the fair returning to its traditional format. During the first several months of the pandemic, there was great uncertainty about the future of the Fairpark.

Having the facility closed and with little revenue coming it, the ongoing pandemic threatened to close the 33-acre facility permanently.

"There was a big uneasiness that if we ever shut the lights off really, how could we afford to bring them back on, and so we really had to look at that," said Barks. "We had to continue to see how we could continue to keep the lights dimmed for a little while until we can bring them back on."

However, Barks said onsite camping skyrocketed, along with the long-running COVID-19 testing and vaccination clinic in the convention center, ironically enough, helped bring in crucial income.

In addition, the Fairpark added to its finances by holding a series of creative, out-of-the-box events, including a rummage sale, drive-through Strawberry Festival, a carnival food night, plus the Fairpark Foundation increased its fundraising efforts.

"We did some fundraising and it really got us through, so to be here today is really a labor of love on all levels because we really put that effort in to make sure this was going to be here when we could be here," said Barks.

Barks added that Covid is still having an impact. Lingering issues from the pandemic will cause the fair to be slightly smaller in size and scope.

"It may not look like what you're used to in the past, but we're still going to have all of those great elements, as we're kind of almost rebuilding our fair back, and across the board," said Barks. "Some of your vendors may not be here anymore. They had to pivot and do other stuff. Our livestock program is seeing lowering of exhibitors, but it's actually probably a little bit more manageable now."

Still, she adds, a trip to the fair this year will be well worth it.

"You're still going to have that same feeling that you have," said Barks. "We're going to showcase local talent on our center stage. We've got our mainstage with some acts that you're going to see every night from Wednesday to Sunday. You're still going to see all of that stuff and come for all that kind of stuff. You're going to come and still walk away with that feeling of county fair."

The Santa Barbara County Fair runs July 13-17.

Hours are from 3 p.m to 10 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday and from noon to 10 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Adult tickets (ages 12-61) cost $15, while kids (6-11) and seniors (62+) are $12. A one-day unlimited ride carnival wristband is $40.

On Thursday and Friday, all admission before 5 p.m. is $5.

For more information or to purchase online tickets, visit www.SantaMariaFairpark.com

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Dave Alley

Dave Alley is a reporter and anchor at News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Dave, click here.

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