Tracing Tracy Territory: County fair president aims to appeal
by Sam Matthews
Jun 07, 2013 | 2572 views | 0 0 comments | 342 342 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Nanette Martin has been on the board of the San Joaquin County Fair for the past 20 years.

The past year, though, has been the most challenging — but also the most productive — in those two decades for the senior board member.

The reason: Nanette has been president of the board in a year when major changes were planned and implemented to provide a new format and greater public appeal for the fair, which opens its five-day run Wednesday, June 12.

“We took a long, hard look at what the fair was offering and when, and made some hard decisions to make some important changes,” said Martin, who works with her son, Phil, in operating Martin Farms.

Among the major changes were moving the fair’s five-day run from September back to June and leaving the horse racing in September.

“The state horse racing board wants horse racing to be held during the fairs, but we knew the fair needed to be returned to its June time to be successful,” she said.

Coinciding horse racing with fair dates caused the fair to move several decades ago from its traditional August date to June, and then to September.

“August was a good time for the fair, but schools are starting their fall terms earlier, and the 4-H and FFA exhibitors can’t take part then, so June is the best alternative,” she said.

Another major development of the past was establishing a working relationship with Tony Noceti and his wife, Carol, who operate Stockton 99 Speedway.

“They have constructed a dirt track inside the horse track in front of the grandstand, and that, without horse racing at the same time as the fair, has given us a new venue for a host of activities, including races, tractor pulls, rodeos and musical entertainment,” Nanette said.

With the grandstand taking on a new role, the fair has eliminated the main stage on the midway where entertainment acts once held sway. In its place, a number of smaller venues have been established for continuous entertainment during the fair’s five days.

In an effort to create more community involvement, a number of nonprofit organizations and schools throughout the county will have exhibits at the fair this year, Nanette reported.

Participation by 4-H and FFA youths in showing and selling livestock, although not as high profile as it was decades ago, continues to be one of the fair’s mainstays, contributing to the “real county fair” flavor.

Nanette said that before decisions were made on the changes in the fair’s structure, the board held a series of public meetings with community representatives, volunteers and others involved with the fair.

“We developed a consensus of what had to be done to make the fair more appealing to the public,” she said. “We’re excited to see how the new ideas will work out.”

Nanette said that Janet Covelo, the fair’s CEO and general manager, has been the point person in creating the fair’s new format.

“We have an active board, but Janet, who has been on the fair staff a number of years, has made those changes a reality,” she said.

With so many opportunities for entertainment and activities available to the public, county fairs have had an increasingly tough time maintaining their traditional place in the public’s annual to-do schedule.

Let’s hope that Nanette and her colleagues at the fair have hit on the right formula to breathe new life in our county’s fair. We in San Joaquin County are fortunate to have a real county fair, and we need it to be successful.

We’ll see next week.

• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by email at shm@tracypress.com.
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