CEO Mandy Staley Prepares for the 98th Annual Tehama County Fair
● By Melissa Mendonca
A Fair to Remember
By Melissa Mendonca
Photos by Mandi Selvester-Owens
RED BLUFF will be covered in burlap sacks and cowboy hats from July 19-22, when the Tehama District Fair gets under way for its 98th year. Many people hope attendance will be high, but none more so than Mandy Staley, the fair’s Chief Executive Officer.
“When I grew up, everyone went to the local fair,” says Staley. “My goal is to bring that feeling back here.”
The 33-year-old Cottonwood native took the reins in April 2016, following a stint as the manager of the Equestrian Center at Rolling Hills in Corning. “I went from a place that had plenty of funds to a place that had no funds,” she says with a laugh. The challenge of moving the fairgrounds into a profitable event center for the community is part of the job’s appeal. “The community in Red Bluff is strong,” she says. “It’s such a big part of the fairgrounds.”
California fairs were dealt a large blow when they lost state funding to operate and had to start generating their own revenue. “Last year is the first year in nine years that the fair had operated in a positive rather than a negative,” she says, crediting her years growing up in the rodeo business for providing the business acumen to create such an accomplishment.
Staley’s childhood was spent not only attending the Shasta District Fair in Anderson as an attendee but as a 4-H and FFA member competing with livestock, as well as the daughter of rodeo stock contractors Jeff and Terri Davis of Four Star Rodeo. “We were the contract help going to the fairs, and now I’m hiring the contract help,” she says.
Moving the fairgrounds into a profitable venture and ensuring the community maximizes the facility’s potential means keeping the place as busy as possible. “My goal is to bring in as many large events as I can,” she says. Events such as a four-day gypsy horse show, California Junior High Rodeo Finals and Gold Country Cutting Horse Association competitions augment more well-known events such as the Bull & Gelding Sale and Red Bluff Round Up. They also bring visitors to Tehama County for multiple days. “Last year, we did 237 events,” she adds.
Creating a memorable experience at the annual fair, however, is the goal at hand this month. “Saturday night, our entertainment is cage fights,” she says, noting that this is a new attraction. There will be a Mexican fiesta and rodeo as well as a hypnotist, motocross stunt riders, and water rides to cool people off. “There’s a lot of family stuff,” says Staley. “Fair is crazy expensive to put on but we try to keep the cost as low as possible so everyone can attend.”
As part of her outreach to the community, Staley collaborates with the summer programming of the Safe Education and Recreation for Rural Families after-school program coordinated by the Tehama County Department of Education. Students at each program site decorate wheelbarrows for the fair and then take a field trip to see their work and other exhibits, taking in a few carnival rides, as well.
When the fair starts, Staley will have an idea of what fair parents experience as they haul kids and animals to stalls and showrings and set up displays in the exhibit halls. She changes hats in June at the Shasta District Fair for her own children, Jayda, 10, and Jordyn, 8. “I get to go to Anderson to be fair mom,” she says. “They show there.”
While she doesn’t have as much time to spend with her parents on the rodeo trail as she’d like, she does manage to get some barrel race competitions in from time to time. Her husband, Robert, a cattle rancher, also ropes at rodeos.
Staley knows the power of fairgrounds to develop a child, a family and a community. They aren’t only a force for economic development, but a place for family and friends to gather in celebration, share knowledge and develop skills. For these reasons and many more, she hopes the community will come out and see what the Tehama District Fair is all about. •
Tehama District Fair • July 19-22, 2018
650 Antelope Blvd, Red Bluff