Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds/Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds Foundation/Ag History Project: Long ago, around 1885, home-loving and farm-loving Santa Cruz County citizens combined their first efforts to produce what has become the Santa Cruz County Fair and Horse Show. This elaborate fair has been at its present location along Hecker Pass Road (the present East Lake Avenue) since 1941. The first agricultural county fair opened on October 16th in Folger's Skating Rink, near the plaza in the center of Watsonville. Over the stage, spelled out in letters formed of apples, was the sign "Pajaro Valley Products.” These days, in addition to providing endless amounts of family fun, during almost every nationally declared disaster, the Fairgrounds have become the county’s safe place for people, animals and community services. 2020 stretched the County Fairgrounds staff and all-volunteer foundation board to new levels of community engagement. During times of need, the Fairgrounds becomes a hub of services for everything from wildfire evacuees and their farm animals to providing a one-stop place for COVID-19 testing, to a vaccination clinic. In addition, Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds:
- Supported drive-through food bank distribution to 1,500-2,500 cars on a biweekly basis (every other Friday);
- Along with the Ag History Project, teamed up with Fairgrounds to create Holiday Lights, bringing drive-through cheer to almost 13,000 carloads of people;
- Remains mostly volunteer-run with a very small staff;
- Resident family, the Kegebeins -- Dave (Fair Manager) & Woody (his wife) and John Kegebien (Dave’s dad) & Jeannie (his wife) –have spent day and night at the fairgrounds along with other volunteers to ensure the evacuees were taken care of;
Currently serves as a drive-through vaccine location for the County, with also offering shelter to another round of evacuees due to winter storms.