The 70th annual California Mid-State Fair will open Wednesday pretty much as planned, with a Southern hospitality-inspired “Puttin’ on the Gritz” theme that brings a daily Mardi Gras-style parade and a giant alligator named Big Al to the Central Coast.
The gates will open at noon, after a costly, last-minute scramble to clean up mud that inundated much of the fairgrounds during the weekend’s unprecedented downpours.
Missing this year will be the traditional cattle drive through town that has heralded the start of the fair every year since 1995. The property usually used as the staging area for the drive has been sold and wasn’t available for the fair’s use.
According to Tribune archives, Paso Robles businessman and rancher Mark Borjon came up with the idea of kicking off the fair with an attention-grabbing cattle drive. It was partly inspired by the movie “City Slickers.”
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Still, the fair will continue through Aug. 2 with the familiar livestock shows and auctions, carnival rides, diet-busting foods, arts and crafts displays, concerts, entertainment and much more.
The record-breaking weekend storm, which brought more than 31⁄2 inches of rain to Paso Robles, is estimated to have cost the fair tens of thousands of dollars to clean up, said Vivian Robertson, CEO of the Mid-State Fair and Paso Robles Event Center.
“That 3 to 4 inches of rain Paso Robles received during the weekend storm? Well, it all ended up here,” Robertson said. “All that mud and water and debris was a mess. It was very devastating.”
Muddy waters swirled into the west side of the Event Center, through the main parking lot off Riverside Avenue and into the fair’s Mission Square and Commercial Building No. 3. It then poured through the newly redesigned Headliner Stage area through Jimmy’s Watering Hole by the midway and into the livestock zone.
Heavy equipment operators were hired to haul away the thick mud and trash in an effort that continued Tuesday. The work delayed by a day some fair preparations, but the Paso Robles Event Center escaped any structural damage, Robertson said.
Robertson said that after all the planning and effort — and rallying to overcome the last-minute surprises — the fair staff and volunteers are excited about presenting another fun-filled California Mid-State Fair.
“We’ve all worked very hard and will be ready to open the gates,” she said.