The interim manager of the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds has a message for the community as the summer draws near: with a team of people ready to help and a community ready for the much-loved event, the fair is on track to open as usual in September.
That is, after all, why the veteran manager of five county fairs elected to help.
“You could see that definitely there is hope in this place,” says Ken Alstott, who lives in Tennessee but will spend half of his time here. “The community loves it, they want to be a part of it. You can tell by all the volunteers. It’s gonna work, I know it’s going to work, because everyone wants it to work. And that’s the number one thing that you can ask for.”
Alstott will work until the Santa Cruz County Fair Board finds a permanent manager.
Alstott says he has no plans to apply for the position.
“I’m retired,” he told reporters who gathered in his office Monday.
Alstott takes the reins of an organization still fractured from the abrupt firing of former manager Dave Kegebein on Oct. 4, and the subsequent termination of board members Jody Belgard and Loretta Estrada, the lone no votes in Kegebein’s dismissal.
Former Board Chair Don Dietrich resigned in April, along with then-interim Fairgrounds Manager Kelley Ferreira.
But Alstott says he has not found any concerning issues in the two weeks since he took the position.
“I don’t see any issues with financials,” he says. “It’s a very complicated system in the state as far as their accounting. I think it maybe needs to be explained better in the public.”
Several members of the public have vociferously expressed their disagreement with Kegebein’s firing during public meetings.
“Everybody has their views and opinions and they’re welcome to that,” Alstott says. “Some things you can change and some you can’t. But the whole focus should be on the interim activities that take place here, and on the fair coming up, because everyone wants a successful fair.”
In addition to the day-to-day operations of the Fairgrounds, Alstott says he is working on contracts for food vendors, performers, parking, vending, security, the carnival and other aspects of the fair.
That includes finalizing a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant that will pay for repairs to a washed-out section of the rear parking lot.
It also includes readying the buildings that are currently being used as emergency shelters by evacuees from flood-damaged Pajaro.
The shelters are expected to close by May 15 after 65 days of operation, says Monterey County Communications Coordinator Maia Carroll.
Plans are in place to assist residents who are still at the site, she says.