Inter-Mountain Heritage Balloon Festival
● By Richard DuPertuis
Up, Up and Away
By Richard DuPertuis
AS THE INTER-MOUNTAIN crew prepared for its Shasta County Fair celebration this month, they scheduled a first-time event two weeks before their annual Memorial Day extravaganza. Residents and visitors alike will ride high into the sky in baskets beneath brightly-colored hot-air balloons during a Mother’s Day weekend event billed as the Heritage Balloon Festival.
The event is a nod to a historic means of flight commemorating the days of the first Shasta County Fair, according to Renee Schneider, marketing coordinator for the nonprofit Inter-Mountain Fair and Event Center. “This year marks the centennial of the Inter-Mountain Fair,” she says. “On Saturday and Sunday, 15 or so balloons will take to the air, filling the skies with an array of color.”
Other activities are scheduled leading into the Mother’s Day weekend, including a Thursday competition to drop a golf ball closest to a hole – from a tethered balloon – and a get-together Friday evening to mingle with the pilots while sampling wine and cheese. Saturday evening features a Centennial Kickoff Dinner.
Local students are in for treat early Thursday morning. “We will be having the pilots perform some demonstrations at the local schools,” says Schneider. “It’s a fun presentation of the science and skill behind piloting.” Children will be able to watch the pilots inflate and prep their balloons for flight at several schools in the Inter-Mountain area. Such a feat of organization is business as usual for the staff and volunteers of the Inter-Mountain Fair. The nonprofit manages the fairgrounds year around, offering vast variety of sporting and social events, as well as the genuine Shasta County Fair, says Fair Manager Kortney Woodward.
“The fair in Anderson is the Shasta District Fair,” she emphasizes. “We are the Shasta County Fair and alwayshave been, since 1918. We used to be county employees.” That all changed during the recent recession, when the state cut funding in 2010. Within two years, funding was restored and maintained today by the office’s governing panel, the Inter-Mountain Fair Heritage Foundation.
Woodward manages the 115-acre fairgrounds, offering an estimated 50 community organizations county-wide a place to hold their own events in any of seven buildings, not including barns and a covered arena with grandstands that seat 2,000. Want space indoors? Rent the 50,000-square-foot Pavilion for concerts and rodeos.
“It’s even broader than that,” says Woodward. “The fairgrounds serves as a hub for the community. It’s a place for people to come for weddings or anniversaries or to play soccer, baseball, football. The fair is the social highlight every year. This year the theme is ‘Ride the Centennial Trail,’ a journey of the last 100 years.”
The president of the Inter-Mountain Heritage Foundation, Elena Albaugh, enjoys a unique view of that journey. Though she's lived in the area for only 40 of those years, she married a descendant of one of the three 1918 founders of the fair, and knows the family stories going back to when the boys came back from Over There at the close of World War I.
“Back then, people wanted to exhibit their livestock, their agricultural produce – from farm or garden – and their canned goods,” she says. “Roderick McArthur, James Day and William J. Albaugh formed a co-op. Our first fair had a rodeo.”
She recalls the fair has come off over the decades without a hitch, so to speak, except for one year. “We didn’t have one at the beginning of World War II. But that’s the only one we missed.” The name Albaugh became synonymous with the fair. “There’s a building in town called Albaugh Hall,” she says. “It was named after Willis Albaugh, who was a volunteer fair director for 56 years, from 1922 to 1978. His brother, Albert, took over for another maybe 20 years.”
Elena Albaugh says the Inter-Mountain Fairgrounds has always been a good draw for bringing in people from outside. “A marketing company called us a blue-ribbon community,” she says. “People come and use us as an activities hub. We’ve got the Mountain Jubilee in June. They’ll have a truck and car show, a horseshoe tournament.”
The Mountain Jubilee, Heritage Balloon Festival, Centennial County Fair and much more can be found on the Inter-Mountain Fair website.
Albaugh says the population of McArthur has been a steady 330 or so for a long time, but the Inter-Mountain Fair and Event Center serves a local customer base of close to 5,000. And for the 90,000 folks in Redding, it's only an hour-and-a-half drive east on Highway 299.
“We have a lot of RV spaces,” she says invitingly. “Room for a lot of people.” •
The Inter-Mountain Fair and Event Center
44218 A St., McArthur
(530) 336-5695 • www.inter-mountainfair.com