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Plumas-Sierra County Fair is finalist for Merrill Award

The Plumas-Sierra County Fair finds itself in some heady company when it comes to competing for the highest industry award on the West Coast. The Merrill Award is given annually to the fair showing the most innovation, vision and excellence.

For the first time, the PSCF is a finalist for the honor; nominated for the Artopolis Art Community at the 2017 Fair.

Other finalists include the New Mexico State Fair, the San Diego County Fair, the Alameda County Fair and the Marin County Fair. Attendance for those fairs range from a high of 1.6 million at the San Diego County Fair to 113,000 at the Marin County Fair.

PSCF boasts an attendance of 10,064, which Fair Manager John Steffanic admits is fudged a little anyway. “I feel the real advantage in this group of finalists falls to our fair in Quincy,” observed Steffanic. “We can’t rely on money or staff to entertain or educate our community. We truly have to work on innovative creativity to pull off projects like Artopolis.”

Collaboration certainly helps. Feather River College art instructor Rafael Blanco, who organized and coordinated the popular mural contest, enthusiastically supported the installation. Selected artists spent the week of the fair creating 8-foot by 8-foot murals inspired by the 2017 Fair theme “Art to Ag.”

Participation for Artopolis was spread across both counties thanks to artist Donna Mills. Schools from Loyalton to Chester created single 4-foot by 8-foot panels of a mural that was then put together during the fair. Mills traveled to each of the schools giving direction on how to paint murals, and then served as the “Mayor” of Artopolis, answering questions and encouraging people to create art at the many projects that were available during the week.

Artopolis wouldn’t be complete without the presence of Plumas Arts Director Roxanne Valladao. Plumas Arts provided local live performers in the Artopolis Cabaret Tent, as well as coordinating opportunities for working artists to create and sell their work.

The Merrill Award is named for the Founder of Western Fairs Association, Louis Merrill. The trade organization was founded in 1922 to promote and lobby for fairs across the West Coast. After the modern Plumas County Fair was formed in 1940, early legends Tulsa St. Elmo Scott and Chet Peckinpah were heavily involved in the organization. Both are inductees to the Western Fairs Association Hall of Fame. Neither the Plumas County Fair, nor the Plumas-Sierra County Fair has ever been a finalist for this prestigious award.

The announcement of the winner or winners will occur at the WFA Convention in Anaheim the first week of January. Steffanic will be making a short presentation on Wednesday, Jan. 3, at the Leadership Luncheon, explaining what Artopolis was. The award will be given at a dinner on Friday, Jan. 5.

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