Courtesy of Congressman Jimmy Panetta:
Congressman Jimmy Panetta (CA-20) and Congressman Billy Long (MO-07) led their colleagues in sending a bipartisan letter urging House leadership to include strong support for our state and county agricultural fairs in the next COVID-19 relief package.
“In times of emergency, fairgrounds … provide areas of shelter and refuge. They can serve as temporary evacuation and medical sites for victims and livestock following disasters such as earthquakes, wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods. Fair operators are often responsible for the costs of maintaining fairgrounds as critical infrastructure so they are ready when disasters strike,” the members wrote.
The members continued, “In response to the financial distress the COVID-19 crisis has placed on America’s fairs, and given the importance they play in the promotion of and development of America’s Agribusiness, it is imperative that financially stressed fairs be provided a lifeline during these difficult times.”
“County and local fairs are vitally important to agriculture on the Central Coast, providing our producers and opportunity to market their crops and livestock, and fostering the next generation of farmers. They are an economic engine, as well as a gathering place, for our communities. Like many institutions, fairs have been impacted by COVID-19, and Congress must ensure their preservation by providing assistance in the next economic relief package,” said Congressman Panetta.
“Unfortunately, many of our state and county agricultural fairs have had to cancel their annual events, crippling an already vulnerable agricultural industry. America’s fairs play a vital role in promoting agribusinesses across the U.S., which is why my colleagues are looking to introduce bipartisan legislation that will help state and county fairs as they try to recover from the extensive closures and public gathering restrictions associated with COVID-19,” said Congressman Long.
“The Monterey County Fair is not just an event showcasing community talents and youth agricultural activities, we are community resources year round. Supporting your local fairgrounds means that we will be here for generations to come!” said Kelly Violini, CEO, Monterey County Fair & Event Center.
“Fairgrounds across the United States provide important community hubs for agricultural education, emergency support services, community charitable fundraising, and many different forms of entertainment ranging from local talent shows to major regional concerts. Most Fairgrounds depend on self generated revenues to maintain safe operations that serve their communities. Covid 19 operational reductions or outright shutdowns have created financial stresses that have most fairgrounds fighting to survive. Providing financial support will keep these great community assets available to serve,” said David Kegebin, Manager, Santa Cruz County Fair.
“Our county population is approximately 60,000 people. In 2019 we welcomed over 48,000 people to our annual events. 22,000 attended our annual Agriculture Fair, and many more attended parties, Quinceaneras, horse shows, festivals, graduations, weddings, family reunions and many more life celebrations. This in turn creates jobs for photographers, supply vendors, food caterers, decorators and many more. Families and community members of all ages find an affordable place to explore, learn, rest, recreate and celebrate at our Fairgrounds. They are the cornerstone for many communities and vital for so many needs. Thank you to Congressman Jimmy Panetta and your colleagues for recognizing the importance of Agriculture Fairs and Fairgrounds. We are very grateful for the support to us and in turn the benefit we are able to give forward to the communities we are part of,” said Dara Tobias, CEO/Fair Manager, San Benito County Fair, California.
“Less than one-third of the states provide any type of funding support of county fairs. Even those states providing some funds will now be faced with difficult decisions to sustain that funding when state revenues have been so dramatically impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Without supplemental aid, the future of some fairs and fairgrounds facilities are in question,” said Marla Calico, President & CEO, International Association of Fairs & Expositions (IAFE).
“The Western Fairs Association, the California Fairs Alliance, and our Service Member partners are in strong support of Congressman Jimmy Panetta’s efforts to include the fair industry in Congressional legislation to assist during this time of National Emergency. Fairgrounds are an essential part of the infrastructure necessary for state and local communities to effectively respond in natural disasters and emergencies. More importantly, fairgrounds are often the heartbeat of their communities, generating multi-millions of dollars in non-profit and community benefits, promoting agriculture and a quality of life serving as gathering spots, recreation facilities and learning centers. Now is the time to provide emergency funding and preserve the legacy of our nation’s Fairgrounds for future generations to come,” said Sarah Cummings, President & CEO, Western Fairs Association/California Fairs Alliance.
Read the full letter here.