Jail crews work to prep fairgrounds

Heather Nyberg-Schlotzhauer, Beacon Correspondent

The Humboldt County Fair board and staff have turned to a new group of helping hands to give the fairgrounds in Ferndale a facelift for the August event: County inmates.

Through the supervision and coordination of the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office, SWAP crews have been putting in over two days a month to help meet maintenance goals for the upcoming fair dates.

"The crew gives us the manpower to do a lot of those bigger projects. They are a considerable resource to the fair," said Richard Conway, the fair's general manager.

The 10 man crew is supervised on site by Sheriff's Correctional Officer Jason Barr, who said the crew is considered a win-win situation for the inmates and the community they serve: Inmates feel they pass the time better, get to be outside, and serve a purpose day to day.

"The crew gets no money for their work, but the fair has provided a lunch to them every day." Barr said. "The crew really looks forward to it."

The SWAP crew works Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on projects around the county and return to jail in time for dinner.

"Due to AB 109 some of the crew have jail time over a year and are serving it in our county jail instead of prison due to overcrowding," Barr said.

The crew, selected through a process based on behavior, sentencing and judge's orders, is strictly limited to nonviolent inmates. Being a crew member is a privilege, and can be taken away.

"There is a sense of pride in the crew doing rewarding work for the community. They get 'thank you' letters for their hard work and requests to come back," Barr said.

Jamie Jorgensen, fair maintenance supervisor, said the crew works hard and is doing a lot to upgrade the facility

"They have been painting, weed eating, cleaning horse stalls, and putting fill in the stalls to upgrade them," Jorgensen said. "We use the crew when they are available, but they are in high demand, so we are thankful to have them. There have not been any negative situations or conflicts."

Jorgensen said the fair needed change and lots of areas needed maintenance.

"I couldn't be working with a better crew, Jorgensen said. "Retired Franz Hawkins still comes down and helps out. He is so great and knows so much about the day-to-day."

The most recent maintained work was done on the large covered arena that services animals and showing during the fair, but in the off season is used for horse boarding year round.

"Most people do not realize this is the largest covered arena on this side of Sacramento," Jorgensen said.

Fair board member Jeff Farley said the board was looking forward to having the crew return and putting down the first bedding for the horse races.

"We are getting the shavings a little earlier this year," he said. "The crew is great and they use their own equipment and have safety training."

"The Humboldt County Fair is 100 percent on track with grounds improvements, sponsors, and new attractions," Conway said.

The fair has offered for both FFA and 4-H to have feature booths, highlighting 4-H's 100th anniversary this year.

Administrative assistant Susan Combes gave a big Facebook shout out to Teresa Noga and the Ferndale FFA : "Another big thank you to volunteers for their workday here, for an outstanding job refurbishing and painting benches and for the new arena drag."

The fair is also announcing the return of beef cattle during senior week, the second week of the fair. The returning division can be found in the 2013 Exhibitors Guide.

The Humboldt County Fair runs August 14-25 at the Humboldt County Fairgrounds in Ferndale. You can now go online to review the Fair Exhibitors Guide and register at www.humboldtcountyfair.org/fairbook.htm. Most entries close July 26, but flowers, veggies, and rabbits can be entered until August 2.

For more information about the Humboldt County Fair, call 786-9511, search for its Facebook page, "Humboldt County Fair," or visit humboldtcountyfair.org.

Photo by Heather Nyberg-Schlotzhauer/Beacon

A Sheriff's Work Alternative Program crew works to make improvements on county fairgrounds in Ferndale.