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Window is open for fair date change

The Mother Lode Fair caught a break this year: Through much of its four-day run earlier this month, temperatures remained in the mid- to high-80s. In fact the mercury only crested 90 on the final day of the fair's July 12, 13, 14 and 15 engagement.

To their great credit, Fair Manager Jan Haydn-Myer and event's directors have not let this welcome and refreshing cold snap deter them from pursuing a long overdue goal: Finding a cooler time of year for our annual community celebration.

Encouraged by an informal poll of fair patrons and other community members, the board will consider moving the Mother Lode Fair to June.

On the calendar, that's only a month earlier. But on the thermometer, it's an quantum leap downward: Average temperatures for the dates of this year's fair are 95, 96, 96 and 96. For the second Thursday through Sunday in June — one of three weekends directors are considering — averages are 82, 84, 83 and 83.

Yes, those selling beer and ice cream could take a hit. But everyone else — kids, parents, seniors, 4-Hers, livestock, entertainers, midway barkers and even carnies — would be a lot happier. We're not alone, to be sure, in urging directors to move the fair as fast as possible to the earliest feasible June dates.

Calling Sonora's mid-July bake-off "the hottest little fair in California" is cute and catchy. But when temperatures top 100, no amount of sloganeering can pull patrons through the gates. Haydn-Myer has confirmed that there is a direct correlation between high temperatures and low attendance.

Moving the fair to June would not only make the evenings cool and crisp, but would make daytime attendance not only bearable, but delightful. Contrast that with oven-hot mid-July fairs that often turn the midway into ghost town until the blazing sun finally dips below the horizon.

It isn't the first time a date change has been suggested. Under a 1999 headline reading "Please, a fair-weather fair is only fair," The Democrat eight years ago urged a move.

"Hundreds of talented, hardworking Tuolumne County citizens annually invest untold hours to make the Mother Lode Fair an unparalleled community showcase," we wrote after 1999's sizzling fair. "Fair directors should do all they can — including changing the event's date — to assure the largest audience for their efforts."

A climatic case can certainly be made:

• The month between July 12 and Aug. 11, in which the fair always falls, is historically the hottest time of year in Sonora. Average temperatures are above 95 degrees for every day of the period.

• The hottest temperatures ever recorded in Sonora, 113 and 112, came on July 15 and 20 — both potential fair dates.

• Record temperatures for this year's fair dates are a scorching 110, 105, 108 and 113.

• A move to the second weekend in June would offer would bring a dramatic, 12-degree average daily temperature drop. But even the third (85, 85, 87, 87 averages) or fourth (90, 91, 91, 90) weekends would offer relief.

Fair Board President Marge Kiriluk, who has been involved with the event since the early 1960s, is ready to end more than four decades of July and August fairs. "I think it's great," she said, noting that not only would June weather be milder, but kids raising livestock would finish their work earlier in the summer.

"The feedback I'm getting from our local community is, ‘yay, let's do that,' " added Haydn-Myer.

Yes, changing the Mother Lode Fair's long-held July dates depends on resolving conflicts with other events and lining up a carnival contractor for the new dates. But with fair contracts ending this year, the window is open. We're confident Haydn-Myer and her staff, who have until the board's Aug. 21 meeting to work out the details, can get the job done.

Because, come 2008, we'll all be ready to chill at the fair.

Union Democrat editorial positions are formed through regular meetings of the newspaper's editorial board — Publisher Geoff White; editor Teresa Chebuhar; managing editor, news Craig Cassidy; senior reporter-columnist Chris Bateman.

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