Mid-State Fair breaks records in ag auctions, entertainment and more

There’s little doubt that Garth Brooks is a tough act to follow. Last year, the headliner who long surpassed both Elvis Presley and the Beatles in worldwide unit sales performed to two sold-out concerts at California Mid-State Fair.
This year, for the first time ever at the fair, two artists, Eric Church and Luke Bryan, each opened to sold-out concerts. In all, the Bud Light Concert Series of concerts drew 78,000 ticket sales from headliners that included Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, Demi Lovato, Dwight Yoakam and more. On the Frontier Stage, Kris Kristofferson also played to two packed houses.
“Despite the extreme heat, our attendance held strong at 427,000, similar to last year,” said Mid-State Fair CEO Michael Bradley. “The temperatures lowered at night, which really helped.”
Indeed, carnival wristband sales saw an increase of five percent, and the addition of Helms and Sons Amusements saw $1,200,000 in sales, up five percent. What many fairgoers also noticed was the addition of shaded areas and places to rest in between activities, features that Bradley confirmed will be increased at next year’s fair. Overall, beautified buildings and landscape, concert diversity, attention to cleanliness throughout the grounds and restrooms and a safe environment elicited positive feedback from visitors, said Bradley.
Livestock auctions saw a five percent profit, totaling $2,608,535 on 871 animals. The Industrial Arts Auction broke previous totals, reaching $100,825 for 61 entries.
“Corporate sponsorships went up 21 percent,” said Bradley, “with about $1.2 million from businesses, exceeding the $1 million amount from 2017. He added that the Career Fair, which promotes apprenticeship programs and careers in the trades, caught lots of interest.
Paso Robles’ Ashley Davis was crowned Miss California Mid-State Fair and Kimberly White of Nipomo captured both first runner-up and Miss Congeniality titles. In the Showcase of Cities, featuring window displays of 10 local communities plus County of San Luis Obispo and Cal Poly, the combined efforts of Nipomo and Oceano is what won the People’s Award.
A slew of food and beverage industry awards were announced. Cass Vineyard & Winery was named 2018 Winery of the Year at the Central Coast Wine Competition, Kurt Bollinger was named Cattleman of the Year, Margaret Avila was named Cattlewoman of the year and Marilyn Britton was named Agriculturalist of the Year.
At the Country Rodeo, John Varian of Parkfield was named All-Around Cowboy. Templeton’s Ashley Davis was awarded All-Around Cowgirl, and Chance Machado of Santa Maria was named the Timed Event Cowboy.

“FFA growth has increased to over 80,000 members in California,” Bradley said. “We need trained teachers to handle this growth. The fair is an expression of that.”

Elements from the Supervised Occupational Experience Program (SOEP), a curriculum in which instruction is taught outside the classroom, are employed at the fair to help youth develop competencies related to agricultural careers. This was evident in the “Hands-On Farming, Joe Sabol Experience,” whose master teaching incorporates SOEP’s “Learn by Doing” methodology.
Bradley emphasized that those who are often unseen by the public are vendors, sponsors and about 100 volunteers who begin preparing for the fair in early to mid-June. He estimates that approximately 50 percent of fairgoers visit from outside the Paso Robles region.
“We look at it ourselves as a treasure to the community,” said Bradley, who credits his staff and volunteer sweat equity for “pulling off a tremendous fair.” A sizeable portion of financial muscle comes from the Heritage Foundation. The nonprofit organization helps underwrite capital projects and improvements that support the California Mid-State Fair. “Without them, we couldn’t do what we do,” Bradley said.