Staff Report

During an emergency meeting of the board of directors of the 37th District Agricultural Association, the board took the unprecedented step of cancelling all April events at the Santa Maria Fairpark. The cancellation includes the Santa Maria Valley Strawberry Festival, which had been scheduled for April 24 through 26.

The board’s emergency meeting was authorized under government code section 11125.5(b)2 and a recent executive order from Governor Newsom. The Fairpark is a state agency owned and operated by the 37th District Agricultural Association.

Richard Persons, CEO of the Santa Maria Fairpark, said the outbreak of COVID-19 has been especially trying for the staff at the Fairpark.

“We’ve been trying to balance personal safety for staff members with continuing to provide service to the community. The part-time staff that works our many events is extremely dedicated and hardworking, and it is heartbreaking to have to tell them we won’t have any work for them until the prohibition against gatherings has been lifted. It’s pretty devastating to cancel the Strawberry Festival, which so many thousands of people love,” he added.

Fairpark officials also announced that they putting together plans for an event similar to the Strawberry Festival to take place in the fall, likely in month of October. 

In the meantime, individuals and businesses that had reserved booth space at the Strawberry Festival will have their rental fees credited towards their Santa Barbara County Fair spaces. The Fairpark is continuing with plans for the fair, July 15 through 19. Promoters of other events that had been scheduled in April have been rescheduled to later dates. In addition to the Strawberry Festival, the cancellations have impacted nearly sixty days of other uses in March and April.

As a result of this unusual situation, nearly all part-time and weekend security, event staff, parking lot, janitorial and office staff, about 40 people, have been laid off.

Three civil servant maintenance workers are working in solitary projects, spread out around the 35-acre property. Fairpark office staff are attempting to “socially distance.” Administrative offices provide separate office spaces, and staff is avoiding gatherings in offices, the conference room, or the break room. A reduced-hours, staggered schedule will begin on Monday, March 23rd for all areas of the Fairpark operation.

Planning for events beginning in May, as well as preparations for the Santa Barbara County Fair, July 15 through 19 continues. According to Persons, all expectations are that the fair will proceed as planned.

About the Santa Maria Fairpark

The Santa Maria Fairpark serves as the hub for major events and community activities on California’s Central Coast. The state-owned facility hosts the annual Santa Maria Valley Strawberry Festival, which attracts more than 60,000 people and is home to its headlining event, the Santa Barbara County Fair, which is attended by more than 150,000 people.