By CHARLENE PAUL
Moapa Valley Progress
The sun rose on Wednesday, April 8 with chilly temperatures and rain in the forecast. Not unusual for the opening day of the Clark County Fair and Rodeo.
The forecast for the week called for some rain, some clouds, some wind, and mostly sunny skies for Saturday and Sunday. Perfect for the crowds that should fill the Clark County Fairgrounds. Perfect for the small animal barn, the livestock auctions, the fine arts displays, the vendors, the entertainers, and the volunteer army that brings the Fair to life each year. Perfect, except for the fact that none of it was present. In fact, there was no Fair.
Since there was no Fair, providing the annual Fair Edition of the Progress wasn’t possible. So, instead of a Fair wrap-up, we bring you the Un-Fair Edition.
Fine Arts Prep
Lea Hurst of Panaca, Nevada spent a full day hanging posters announcing the Fair and letting people know about the drop-off for items to display in the Fine Arts Building.
“I let them know where they could fill out their paperwork and bring their stuff,” she said. “I usually would then bring those items to the Fair and return them after the Fair was finished.”
But two days after hanging the posters, Hurst got a call from Fine Arts Chairperson Robin Maughan telling her the Fair had been canceled. “So, I retraced my steps and took them all down,” she said.
Maughan was her usual cheerful self as she talked about the cancellation. “We hadn’t started decorating, so there wasn’t anything to take down,” she explained. “We will just expand our displays and keep our theme for next year.”
When asked what it was like not to have to be at the fairgrounds from before sun-up to well after sundown, she said, “I have been to bed every night this week by ten o’clock. It feels great, but my brain can’t figure it out.”
Maughan would like to encourage everyone to set their sights on next year’s fair. “You know all those projects you thought about just before the fair?” she said. “Well, now you have time to get them done. For those of you who are enjoying canning season, be sure to set two jars of everything aside to enter in the next year’s fair.”
Word has it that there may be a special category next year for face masks.
No Mutton to Bust
The excitement for Mutton Bustin’ was high again this year.
“At the point that the fair was canceled, we only had a couple of spots that hadn’t been filled,” said event organizer Stuart Riggins.
Riggins thanked his team who worked so hard to get things organized. “For the past couple of years, my stress level has been low because I have such a good group of people making sure everything gets done,” he said. “They worked hard this year as well.”
Riggins had some advice for those wanting to enter the Mutton Bustin’ challenge next year. “Stay enthused and stay healthy,” he said. “But don’t do much practicing. It’s hard on the sheep.”
Fair Director Todd Robison and Fair Manager Kevin Willard spent Wednesday texting back and forth about what they would be doing if the fair had been up and running.
“After nearly 30 years, it’s just different,” said Willard. “You get into that fair mentality and instinct just takes over.”
Willard explained that the cancellation came as no surprise to most of the vendors, partners, volunteers, and sponsors. “Most of them had been watching news reports about closures, so they figured this was coming,” he said. “A lot of our vendors and sponsors just rolled their entry fees over until next year. The fair will go on. We just want everybody to be safe and find some peace and joy throughout this time.”
All dressed for rodeo and nowhere to go
Rodeo Director Matt Stankowski talked about the impact the cancellation had on rodeo contestants from all over the country.
“This is the first and biggest open-air rodeo of the rodeo season,” he explained. “We know so many of the contestants. People look forward to participating and watching every year.”
Stankowski generally takes a week or two off work to coordinate and work with his group of volunteers who give countless hours making sure the rodeo goes off without a hitch.
“We have at least 200 volunteers to do the large and small jobs,” he said. “Without them, we could never pull it off.”
Rodeo volunteer Aaron Jesson expressed his feelings about the cancellation. “I usually spend more hours than I can count getting things ready for the rodeo,” he said. “But for the past three weeks, I drove to the rodeo grounds every day after work and parked and looked around. It’s just weird that I don’t have to repair the arena or get the back pens ready for livestock.”
Vendors will be back
Local vendor Rik Eide says he is looking forward to next year.
“What I felt the worst about are the kids that I wasn’t able to employ this year,” he said. “I usually hire 16-18 kids, and this year there was no opportunity for them to earn any money. But we will be back next year, better and stronger than ever.”
Diane and Dwight Memmott – Momma and Papa Twister – sent a text about the cancellation of the fair. For the past 22 years, they have brought their crowd favorite Texas Twister drink to the Fair. “I wanted to thank all of our friends, loyal customers, and amazing workers in our booth,” Diane said. “We are so proud and happy to have become a tradition for lots of folks. We love Moapa Valley. It’s become like a home to us every time we go there. We will definitely be back next year and look forward to seeing y’all.”
The show couldn’t go on
Probably the most heartbreaking part of the cancellation was that of the Junior Livestock show and auction.
“We tried everything we could to continue for the kids,” said CCJLA Secretary Missy Hardy. “We considered an online show and sale, but the cost was just way too high. Clark County Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick worked with us until the governor took the decision-making out of her hands. It was just so hard knowing how hard the kids had worked.”
Hardy said that there was a little good news that came for some of the kids who raised animals to sell.
“To date, nearly 80% of the animals have been sold,” Hardy said. “We hope the kids will learn from this. Life will never be fair, but you just have to roll with the punches. Keep a positive attitude and we hope to see you next year.”
One for the record books
Robison summed it up best. “What is going on in our country and the world right now is so much more important than this fair,” Robison said. “This has affected the lives and livelihoods of so many people. But we will get this ship righted to sail again.”
There were no funnel cakes, snow cones, turkey legs, or balloons. There were no carnival lights, rides, or games. There were no shows, animal rides, fine arts displays, or water bubbles. People who waited an entire year for their favorite goodies and activities now have to wait another year for them.
The year 2020 will go down in the history books as the year of the ‘Un-Fair.’ But with the help of countless volunteers, fair board members, vendors, and young people, next year will be different, and possibly better than ever.
Hopefully the weather will cooperate and be extra gentle for the 2021 Clark County Fair and Rodeo. But rain or shine, wind or calm, the Fair will go on as it has for decades.
Originally Published at https://mvprogress.com/2020/04/15/the-year-of-the-unfair/