With California in the firm grip of drought, the California Mid-State Fair this year has switched out some grass for decomposed granite and asked students to conserve while rinsing their animals in the livestock barns.
Plant-growing competitions also have taken a water-saving turn, with more non-thirsty succulents entered than in previous years.
While the emphasis is on water conservation, the fair, held annually at the Paso Robles Event Center, hasn’t turned off the tap as some other fairs have around the state.
“Some fairs are going dry entirely, but I would worry about … not washing animals and not keeping them clean and the sanitary issues that come with that for the kids,” said Vivian Robertson, CEO of the Mid-State Fair and Paso Robles Event Center.
Instead, Robertson said Junior Livestock participants have been asked for the first time to follow “minimal rinse” rules that encourage minimal water use and only allow hoses with shut-off nozzles.
That’s something San Luis Obispo County kids are used to by now, said Loretta Mazzo, community club leader of the Templeton 4-H club. Her club is entering about 90 animals at the Mid-State Fair this year.
“A lot of these people are in areas where they’re mandating water rules, anyway,” Mazzo said. “I think everybody knows about water conservation these days.”
Even last year, Mazzo said, youth leaders were instilling responsible washing guidelines.
“We always bring our own hoses in, and they’ve always had shut-off valves on them,” she said. “We’ll say, ‘Come wash your pigs at 2 o’clock.’ And all the kids gather and it’s a one-hour process of cycling their pigs through there and it’s systematic. The hoses aren’t just left running.”
Banning livestock rinsing entirely would have been too hard on the animals, she said, given concerns over livestock feces as well as Paso Robles’ scorching hot temperatures.
Fairgoers also will notice fewer lawns and more decomposed granite at the event center this year.
Grass was removed near the carnival lot, in the Frontier Park area, around the Adelaide Hall commercial building and in some parts of the Headliner Stage arena. Staff also stopped watering the grass in the campground used by families showing animals.
“Our lawns have always been hard for us because we have back-to-back events year-round and put so much money into the lawns to get them back to green for each event,” Robertson said. “But we also want to do our part and conserve during this drought so we’ve spent a lot of money to take the grass out.”
Elsewhere, organizers say the drought hasn’t reduced the number of entries into the fair’s plant competitions.
“I would say our flower and produce entries were about the same (as previous years),” said Jacky Eshelby, fair program and exhibits manager. “But we have tons and tons of succulent entries this year.”
“I think everyone has known about water conservation for so long that it’s not even so much a hot topic right now, it’s just a given,” she said.