Nevada County Fair is August 12-16: one of nation’s top rural fairs

CALIFORNIA HAS 78 FAIRS, AND EACH ONE maintains its local flavor and identity. Some are known for horse racing, such as Del Mar, while others are known for “going green,” such as the Marin County Fair with its solar powered carousel.

The Nevada County Fairgrounds, whose fair is August 12-16, is known as California’s most beautiful fairgrounds and one of the top 10 rural fairs in America. “This is one of the prettiest fairgrounds I’ve seen,” the late Huell Howser once observed, noting hundreds of tall pines on almost 100 acres. He featured the fairgrounds on his popular “California Gold” TV program in 2011.

The Nevada County Fairgrounds are located in Grass Valley, about a one-hour drive from Sacramento. Fairs have been held at this location since 1938. The Gentle Giant Monument marks the entrance to the Fairgrounds and symbolizes the spirit of California’s pioneers.

The fairgrounds also are home to the Draft Horse Classic and Country Christmas Faire. It hosts world-famous musicians, including Bonnie Raitt, Randy Newman and Willie Nelson.

The fair held in August lasts five days. This year’s theme is “Catch the Fair Bug.” It includes animals, exhibits and carnival rides; contests for bacon recipes, Instagram photos and more; stage entertainment, including the Nevada County Concert Band; the “Flying U Extreme” rodeo with broncos, bulls and special acts; monster trucks and a destruction derby.

The fair is famous for Treat Street, a row of delicious food booths from local nonprofits. The Job’s Daughters Corn Dog booth opened in 1982, and they serve between 15,000 and 19,000 corn dogs during the fair.

The Draft Horse Classic and Harvest Fair on September 24-27 has grown to become the premier Draft Horse show in the West. The Harvest Fair features Treat Street goodies, entertainment and a chance to visit the barns and horses.

New Fair CEO

The Fairgrounds has a new CEO: Rea Callender, an entrepreneur and philanthropist with corporate, startup and nonprofit experience. Rea spent part of his youth in Nevada County, and his family owned a 2,000-acre working cattle ranch in Grass Valley.

“My love for the Nevada County Fair began in grade school as a 4H member,” says Rea. “I often tell people that 4H was my first experi- ence as an entrepreneur.” Rea replaces Sandy Woods, who retired after having been at the fairgrounds since 1995.

(Photos: Kial James, Wendy Oaks)

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