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September 28, 2023

Taking pride in our fairgrounds

The Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds is a hidden gem that needs to be protected. It has been said that fairgrounds date back to Greek times where they were created to offer a place for people to buy and sell goods. Over the years fairgrounds have evolved to become more than a modern-day flea market. They have become a place where people gather to further their causes, celebrate different cultures or events, promote agriculture and strengthen youth leadership skills through programming provided or acquired by fairgrounds management.

The Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds was purchased in 1941 and has been meeting the needs of our county ever since. I remember growing up and spending a lot of time at the fairgrounds.  Many days were spent celebrating my Portuguese and Latino culture by attending festivals, cruising swap meets with my dad as he enjoyed his love for cars, playing Salsi Little League baseball or spending a week participating in 4-H and FFA activities during the fair in September.  

The fairgrounds has been a place where many of my most cherished memories were created.  In addition to being a place of wonderful memories, it also plays a crucial role in emergency efforts throughout our region. During my lifetime, it served as a temporary school after the 1989 earthquake, housed local fire, flood and earthquake victims and animals, offered a vaccination site for county residents, been a flourishing flea market and has been a reliable food distribution location.

It was such a pleasure to see the Santa Cruz County Fair open its gates once again in September. The Covid-19 pandemic has tremendously impacted the way we live our daily lives.  Since March 2020, we have had to adjust the way we think and operate. Some traditions have become a thing of the past or have been altered to fit our new reality. This made me question how the annual fair was going to perform. Were people going to show up? That was the question on so many minds. The answer was yes! The crowds came in huge numbers.  

I had the honor of presenting a proclamation to the Santa Cruz County Fair Board on opening day. It was a special moment for me as the fairgrounds and, specifically, the annual county fair has been such an instrumental part of my life. I also returned to the fair on Saturday evening.  To my surprise, it took one hour to get there. Once in the fair, it was clear to see that it was filled with many fairgoers. After witnessing the crowds, I knew this was going to be a successful year.  It clearly offered a space for people to safely congregate and celebrate during these unprecedented times. This validates my belief that the fairgrounds is an integral part of our county. It is clear it provides many types of crucial services. Thus, a place we need to protect and preserve.

Thank you to all who help make this experience possible for us to enjoy. Your dedication to our fairgrounds is the reason we will continue to have this opportunity in our community for many years to come. I know it has not always been easy. However, when times were challenging there were so many people who were willing to step up and meet the moment. As a leader, I promise I will always strive to protect the future of our fairgrounds. It is a place so many people depend on for celebration, security and community. I know I am not the only one who has created such special memories over the years at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds. It is my belief there are many more memories, from many more people, to be made at this place many of us call home.

Mayor’s Update is a recurring column from Watsonville’s mayor, Jimmy Dutra. His opinions are his own and not necessarily those of the Pajaronian. Contact Dutra at [email protected].


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