Humboldt County fair readies for opening day

Heather Nyberg-Schlotzhauer

Beacon Correspondent

The Humboldt County Fair is fast approaching and the exhibits are pouring in at the fairgrounds. Longtime employee Susan Combes is here to help. Combes has been with the Fair for over 14 years and is the administrative assistant in charge of exhibits and entries.

Opening ceremonies will be a little different this year and take place at the site of the main entrance where there stands a new flag pole. Long time fair employee Al Michaels will be honored at the ceremony where his last project has been placed on the perimeter fence in front of the new flag pole.

"It is with pride and sadness that we unveil Al Michaels new sign which is one of the last things he did for the fair prior to his death," Combes said. "Opening ceremonies usually take place at Friendship Square, but this year with the flag pole and honoring Michael's we are moving it to the main entrance," said Combes.

The opening day ceremony will take place on Wednesday, Aug. 14 at 11 a.m.

"Things are going really well," Humboldt County Fair General Manager Richard Conway said. "We are on schedule and things are falling into place. ... There are always last minute items that come up and we will adjust and deal with them when they arise."

Fair entries are reported to be above last year and that means Combes has had her hands full preparing and answering questions from the public. Combes is a pro when it comes to assuring exhibitors and getting everything to fall into place.

"My first job on a newspaper was in college where I had to produce a special edition for the local fair," Combes said. "Now 50 years later I am working for a fair."

There are some changes to the livestock departments with the addition of beef cattle returning to the adult week of the fair and a new category for range sheep.

"We have a great addition to the adult home arts & floriculture classes as we will be giving out premium checks for first through third places," Combes said. "We are very excited about this new addition to the categories."

Premium checks are not limited to these two divisions as the fair already offers thousands of dollars as sponsored special awards in all categories.

Youth livestock lead class has also seen some changes being expanded to include all the large livestock that sells in the big junior livestock auction which will be held on Sunday, Aug. 18.

Youth also has a division addition for breeding swine and an award for Humboldt-bred market lambs. This new award joins the Rudy Mora Humboldt Born & Bred Challenge for market beef cattle. The awards acknowledge local breeders of quality project animals.

Don't miss the youth owners who dress up with their beef cattle, sheep, swine, and meat goats with costumes that promote their industries on Saturday, Aug. 17 in the Covered Arena at 5 p.m.

Recently the fair was presented with a proclamation from the Board of Supervisors stating, "Each year the Humboldt County Fair Association provides educational, entertainment and recreational opportunities for the general public while preserving and promoting the agricultural heritage of California's North Coast by showcasing the talents, interests, character and achievements of the residents of Humboldt County."

"It is nice to see the board recognized by the supervisors for all of their hard work and effort they have put into this," Conway said. "I am fortunate to have their support and that they are so active. They have made the transition smooth by stepping up and providing a lot of support."

"I love the variety and the excitement of the job," Combes said. "I enjoy being able to help people get their entries in and then I get to go see those entries during the fair. Being able to see the excitement on their faces when they see their winning ribbons is very fulfilling."

The fair now has TVG coverage for horse racing, which allows for nationwide coverage. In addition, there is advanced deposit racing where individuals can place bets from the comfort of their own home.

"We are 80 horses over last year, but you never count a horse until its feet are on the ground," Conway said. "We have about 345 confirmed horses. Additionally, we have Russell Baze, who has won the most races in North America with over 12,000 wins.

"I hope everyone sees the changes that we have made with the midway layout, buildings, entertainment, and our overall last push for making this an exceptional fair," he said. "We are providing a lot of new things to provide a greater draw in all areas. When you look at the entertainment there really is something for everyone. Our exhibits are up over last year and we are solid in horse racing."

The Humboldt County Fair runs Wednesday, Aug. 14 through Sunday, Aug. 25, with the theme for its 117th year being 'A Tribute to Agriculture -- A Tradition We Treasure.'

Any questions can be directed to Combes or Conway at 786-9511.

Photo by Heather Nyberg-Schlotzhauer/Beacon

Susan Combes has been with the Humboldt County Fair for over 14 years and is considered the face of the office.