Dave Kegebein takes part in a tractor parade through the fairgrounds to show off the Agricultural History Project's line of restored early day equipment. Photo: Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

The 2023 Santa Cruz County Fair wrapped up Sept. 17 with greater attendance than years past. From monster trucks and pig races to LEGO models, homemade quilts, original paintings, bonsai trees, antique tractors, live music, poodle shows and giant pumpkins, the fair unfolded under favorable weather and under the mantle of a new fair CEO.

 “We are pleased to announce attendance for the five-day Fair was up 3% overall compared to 2022,” said spokeswoman Katie Marzullo. “This uptick in attendance is a testament to the strength of the Fair. We were able to thrive despite struggles earlier in the year, including turnover in management.”

Marketing director Ron Haedicke said that about 90% of the vendors of the past were back, plus some new names.

“We had new leadership but the same great fair,” he said. “I think the buildings looked better than ever with colorful and rich displays. We fit the bill of ‘Home Grown and Locally Shown.’”

Marzullo said that congratulations are in order for the local 4-H and FFA students. In that the Junior Livestock Auction raised more than $455,000.

“This year’s Santa Cruz County Fair was a roaring success,” said Zeke Fraser, fair CEO and manager. “As I roamed the fairgrounds throughout our five days of fun, I saw only smiling faces and happy families enjoying everything we had to offer. My thanks go out to the hard work of all of our volunteers, a tireless staff, and all of our sponsors and vendors – without them, none of this would have been possible. It wasn’t me who showed the community what it means to be home grown and locally shown; it was the community that showed me. I am honored to be a part of it all.” 

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Tarmo Hannula has been the lead photographer with The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville since 1997. More recently Good Times & Press Banner. He also reports on a wide range of topics, including police, fire, environment, schools, the arts and events. A fifth generation Californian, Tarmo was born in the Mother Lode of the Sierra (Columbia) and has lived in Santa Cruz County since the late 1970s. He earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and has traveled to 33 countries.


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