Fireworks, the return of the destruction derby, and other new offerings contributed to what Mother Lode Fair organizers are hoping will be the best turnout for the annual event in years.

Admission totals from Thursday through Sunday were still being tallied as of Monday afternoon, but sales at the livestock auctions and concession stands were all reportedly up from the last year.

Ken Alstott, chief executive officer of the Mother Lode Fairgrounds, 29th District Agricultural Association, said he believes the arena events were also better attended than last year.

The ever-popular destruction derby was held in the arena on Sunday for the first time since 2017, due to the fair being unable to find an operator last year.

Alstott said he believes the free fireworks shows on Friday, Saturday and Sunday helped to boost overall attendance.

“Fireworks were successful all three nights,” he said.

Some in the community had expressed concern about the fireworks being hosted at the fairgrounds, but Alstott said they took preventative measures that went “above and beyond” what was required.

Fire officials and the fireworks technicians themselves also had to approve the shows beforehand based on the conditions.

There were two fire engines and 4,000-gallon water truck on site at all times during the fireworks, according to Alstott.

The truck was also used to spray down Southgate Drive from the fairgrounds to the entrance, including along the top of the tree line, Alstott said.

Alstott added that there were also fire marshals and a hand crew on site in case something went wrong.

“We were thankful for the low winds and high humidity,” he said.

The livestock auctions also broke the sales record for another consecutive year, raising a total of $481,067 between the large and small livestock auctions. The total sales between the two auctions last year was about $463,000

Large livestock sales totaled $449,842 while small livestock sales totaled $31,225. The small livestock sales were down from $48,200, though the lack of poultry due to an outbreak of Newcastle disease in Southern California likely contributed to the decline.

Alstott said he also believes additional people were drawn to the fair on Thursday for free concerts that were sponsored by the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians and Chicken Ranch Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians of California.

The fair has struggled with declining attendance and funding in recent years, though Alstott is hoping this year will prove to be a turning point.

Contact Alex MacLean at amaclean@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4530.

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