The Eastern Sierra Tri-County Fair Board caught an earful from members of the public at its regular Board meeting held Wednesday, September 13 at the Tallman Pavillion at the fairgrounds.
As the meeting started, a maintenance employee driving a forklift came careening past Tallman Pavillion, dropping a loose piece of equipment (a door handle) and then driving away without noticing something had fallen off while he was impersonating Mr. Toad.
That was a tone-setter, of sorts, and a reminder that former Fairgrounds Maintenance Manager Ben Barlow was fired by CEO Suzie Wolfersberger and is no longer around.
To follow up on last week’s cover story in The Sheet, here are some of the new things learned Wednesday.
Longtime Fair volunteer Michelle Denault said she posted a request on Facebook for feedback on the Fair and received 680 replies.
Among the complaints: Lack of responsiveness by the front office, particularly regarding the rodeo; No more self-selection of Demolition Derby seats; General cost; Lack of vendors/entries.
She also (second-hand via Tricia Weatherford), said that Cody Wayne Brown (a Fairgrounds maintenance employee) and his girlfriend Betty Jo Whitman (a Fairgrounds administrative employee) were spotted drinking at the Journey (tribute band) concert on Friday.
Tricia Weatherford confirmed to The Sheet that she had witnessed Brown drinking. She could not confirm the same regarding Whitman.
The reason this is relevant: Former Maintenance employee Jason Schuier told The Sheet last week he was fired for having a beer off-the-clock, after work at the Fairgrounds.
Former Fair volunteer Donna Bird observed that morale is worse than it’s ever been among volunteers, and said the firing of Ben Barlow “was the worst administrative decision ever and left the Fair open to delivering very poor customer service.”
According to Bird, office personnel handed out cash to pay contractors—if true, an alarming allegation based upon past embezzlement.
She also alleged that employees were smoking on-site as they hung banners prior to the Fair. The Fairgrounds is supposed to be a non-smoking venue.
20-year volunteer Greg Smith urged the Board not to be dismissive of the feedback it was receiving. Debbie Barbieri added, “We took time out [on a Wednesday morning] to be here for a reason.”
Overall, between 20-25 members of the public attended. Margie Duffy, who serves as the department Head for Exhibits, echoed the sentiments of several people who thought there should be a comprehensive debrief of the Fair. “I know it’s time-consuming to meet with each department, but we need to do it,” she said.
During her Fair report, CEO Wolfersberger said the financials from this year’s Fair look to be comparable with the past few years. The final numbers will be revealed at the October Board meeting.
To explain the decline in food vendors at the Fair, Wolfersberger said that could have been because Fair administration strictly enforced the application deadlines this year.
Wrist band prices increased two dollars this year for carnival rides (to $30).
At the meeting, Board member Jaque Hickman was designated to serve as the Board’s press liaison. Maybe a first order of business would be to include contact information for Board members and staff on the Fair’s website.
Two questions submitted to Suzie Wolfersberger via email last week went unanswered, but which may as well be asked here.
I understand you were injured on the job during last year’s Fair. Had you consumed any alcohol prior to sustaining the injury?
Can you give me a description of the recruitment process that led to Betty Jo Whitman’s hiring? Was her position advertised statewide? How many applicants were there?