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Relocated Fair Resurrects Good Ol’ Country Flavor

Times Staff Writer

The carnival rides and games, concerts and alcoholic beverages were gone from the San Fernando Valley Fair this year--sacrificed by the fair board so it could stage the event at Hansen Dam after losing the fair’s previous site.

But fair-goers on Sunday, the last day of the event in Lake View Terrace, didn’t seem to mind. Mostly parents and grandparents, they were happy to show their children the traditional staples of American fairs--livestock, agricultural products and home crafts.

“We’re having a great time,” said Kurt Caldwell, 29, of Sunland, who attended the fair with his wife and his son Cian, 4. “We’re vegetarians and it is good for him to see the animals that he knows other people eat.”

Fair attendance has declined dramatically with the absence of carnival attractions. Last year, 70,000 people attended a 4 1/2-day event which featured nighttime concerts, said fair organizer Ted Nauman. He refused to release attendance figures Sunday for the first two days of this year’s three-day event, but said he expects overall paid attendance will exceed 15,000.

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Nauman said he “couldn’t be happier” with the reduced fair, despite the smaller crowds.

The fair’s primary purpose is to preserve the farming and ranching heritage of the Valley, which was once an important goat-ranching area and the nation’s leading producer of lettuce, he said. The carnival attractions didn’t contribute to that, Nauman said.

“This is the only opportunity a lot of urban dwellers have to explore the relationship of the family to the farm, to see the values of hard work and enterprise demonstrated,” Nauman said.

Standing next to the three steers his daughters sold Saturday, Earl Ritchie, 68, of Reseda, said the most pressing problem facing the fair is finding a permanent home.

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Last year the fair was ousted from Cal State Northridge after 13 years to make way for campus development. In late April the fair’s governing board agreed to hold a scaled-down version at Hansen Dam.

Ritchie, whose family has entered the fair for the last 15 years, said potential exhibitors were dissuaded from raising animals this year because they were not sure they would have a place to sell livestock.

Many entrants are students who raise animals as part of school agricultural programs. Others raise animals on their own land.

Ritchie said he started his four daughters, now 23, 20, 18, and 17, raising lambs and pigs when they were younger than 10.

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