The California Mid-State Fair has been a Paso Robles institution since it started 70 years ago. But did you know at one point there was some contention between city and fair officials? Some in the city felt the fair was a drain on city resources, didn't contribute financially to city coffers and took business away from downtown. Fair officials, maybe not feeling very appreciated, decided to look for a new home elsewhere.
Here's a story from Feb. 9, 1989, titled "Talk of fair moving to Santa Margarita excites board":
Some Fair Board members are excited about the prospect of moving the Mid-State Fair from Paso Robles to Santa Margarita.
The board voted unanimously Wednesday morning to “explore the possibility” of moving the fair to the Santa Margarita Ranch, a process that could take a decade.
The vote came after Rob Rossi, developer for the Santa Margarita Ranch Co., showed the board an aerial photo of the ranch and talked about possible locations for the fairgrounds.
Rossi said he came to the board meeting because Maynard Potter, fair manager, had called him a few weeks ago about including the fair in the proposed ranch development.
Rossi said the owners of the 13,800-acre ranch have been planning to develop it since 1983.
They have applied to the county for a General Plan land-use change for the property but haven’t yet specified what changes they want.
The specific changes will be requested by the end of March, Rossi said.
Most of the development is likely to happen south of the present town of Santa Margarita, he said.
That would leave areas along Highway 101 open for the fairgrounds, he said.
George Gowgani, Fair Board member, said he has long felt a new fairgrounds could be developed north of the present Santa Margarita Ranch headquarters.
He proposed that idea six years ago to the Fair Board, he said, but it was dropped at that time.
Every time he drives by, Gowgani said, he pictures the fairgrounds there in a “Disneyland setting.”
“I’m excited about it,” he said. “Maynard and the board have a chance to put our fingerprint on the future of San Luis Obispo County.”
Potter said 300 acres would be a good size for the fairgrounds.
That would be a little bigger than the present town of Santa Margarita, which Rossi said covered about 250 acres.
But the town could be shielded and buffered from the fairgrounds, he said.
David Blakely, District 5 county supervisor and a resident of Santa Margarita, has “serious reservations and concerns” about moving the Mid-State Fair to that area.
He said Santa Margarita has no hotels and few public services such as restaurants and shopping for the fairgoers.
He also said members of the Santa Margarita Area Advisory Council discussed the fair at their meeting Wednesday night and expressed strong reservations about having it as a neighbor.
As the fair board meeting, Potter suggested the fairgrounds could be in the middle of a parking area surrounded by a golf course that could share the parking.
The fairs of the future, he said, will be cultural centers for an entire area.
He envisions the new larger Mid-State Fairgrounds becoming a cultural center for the Central Coast, with more emphasis on the arts and performing arts. Agricutlure, however, would remain its “basic background.”
Ella Mae Butterfield, Fair Board member, said a new fairgrounds on Santa Margarita Ranch would allow for the expansion of the fair’s horse show activities.
Bob Thon, board member, also said he was excited.
“We have to move on,” he said. “I feel good.”
George Galvan, the board member who moved to authorize Potter to explore the possibilities of moving, said he wasn’t doing so because “someone said something to hurt our feelings.”
He was referring to some Paso Robles officials who recently publicly doubted the fair’s financial benefits to the city and said it causes problems for the city.
Some City Council members also sounded critical of the fair last month when Potter asked them to consider selling the neighboring Pioneer Park to the fair for expansion.
Potter, however, reported Wednesday that he had a cordial meeting Monday with the two city councilman appointed to discuss that park proposal: Kevin Dolan and Dick Conway.
“It was a pretty decent meeting,” Potter said.
It left him with the impression “they basically don’t want the fair to leave,” he said.
He also got a similar impression, he said, from Mayor Steve Martin, who met with him Tuesday.
He also said city officials are getting g a lot of phone calls from people telling them: “The fair is a bigger deal than you realize.”
Dolan and Conway gave a similar report Tuesday night at the concil meeting.
“They need us and we need them,” Dolan said.
Conway pointed out that “there are already 47 different events planned at the fair this year.”
Potter told the Fair Board that the fair won’t move overnight.
Major developments like a new fairgrounds can take 10 years to complete, he said.
“We are exploring the possibilities, We’re not saying ‘Boom, we’re going to move,’” Potter said.
The fairgrounds may also turn out to be wrong for the Santa Margarita Ranch development, he said.
The Fair Board was scheduled to tour Santa Margarita Ranch Wednesday afternoon, but the tour was postponed until next month because of rain.