Steve Chambers and Sarah Cummings, outgoing and incoming executive director of the Western Fairs Association respectively, welcome Cliff Munson, Siskiyou Golden Fair, Yreka, Calif., as new WFA treasurer. (Photo courtesy of Western Fairs Association)

REPORTING FROM ANAHEIM, CALIF. — The Washington State Fair, Puyallup, will debut The Farm Sillyville at its 2018 event. The San Diego County Fair, Del Mar, Calif., themed “How Sweet It Is” this year, is all about candy, having already booked Sugarland for its coming fair, part of an extensive tour the group has announced.

And a prominent number of awards for 2017 achievements at the Western Fairs Association here Jan. 3-6 honored embracing diversity and the new world order.

Dr. Rita Murray gave the keynote address on generational diversity and many took it to heart. When relating to any generation, keep in mind the things that changed in the first 10 years of that generation’s life, which will impact how they react to the world around them, she advised.

Greg Stewart, Central Washington State Fair, Yakima, noted that his perspective on millennials changed after hearing Murray. “[Millennials] have a reluctance to attend meetings. You have to understand and address that issue,” he said.

“They think differently, they’re always on their iPhones,” added Tim Fennell, Del Mar, Calif. “You have to have patience and understanding and help them understand you. It’s a two-way street.”

Kent Hojem, Puyallup, was looking toward the newest generation. His Farm Sillyville, which will probably eventually be open year round, is a takeoff on Little Hands on the Farm, which Cindy Hoye instituted at the Indiana State Fair, Indianapolis. Hojem said it will cost “north of $3 million” to build out. The purpose is to educate the 4- to 8-year-olds on where food comes from, something many are not exposed to today.

Hojem also noted he is looking forward to the future with Sarah Cummings as executive director, a role she assumed from outgoing Executive Director Steve Chambers at the meeting here. “For 30 years, Stephen has been a visionary benefiting California and Western fairs,” Hojem said. “Now I’m looking forward to the next era with Sarah.”

Diversity was the theme of a majority of the Merrill Awards. The San Diego County Fair received one for its New Citizen Inclusion Program, which involved providing welcome packages including fair admission to new U.S. citizens throughout the year. San Diego County brings 1,500-5,000 people into the fold each month. The fair set up a booth at the official swearing-in ceremonies and offered two complimentary fair tickets plus other goodies to new citizens. Of 4,000 who received the package, more than 2,000 redeemed them.

Fennell thanked WFA for its open-mindedness regarding diversity and inclusion and for “awarding us for our crazy idea.”

The New Mexico State Fair, Albuquerque, won a Merrill Award for its Autism Awareness Sensory Station. The fair created a room for families to escape with children with sensory overload. Working with the New Mexico Autism Society, they built out 10 rooms with pipes and maroon drapes and family-time activities.

The Barham Award, named after the founder of Hot Dog On A Stick, Dave Barham, went to WZ Productions LLC, producer of “Out at the Fair,” another diversity program welcoming the LGBTQ+ community to fairs.

2018 Hall of Fame winners were Louie Brown, partner at Kahn, Soares & Conway, a passionate advocate of fairs as a lobbyist in Sacramento who started in the industry showing livestock and finds everything about fairs “utterly amazing”; Norm Towne, consultant, who is all about “opportunity,” which he finds abundant at fairs; and Charlie Barboni, manager of the Marin County Fair, San Rafael, who began exhibiting at fairs in 1966 and, years later, helped grow competitive exhibits from 4,000 entries to 15,000 at Marin.

WFA officers for 2018 include Cliff Munson, Siskiyou Golden Fair, Yreka, Calif., treasurer; Judy Carrico, Alameda County Fair, Pleasanton, Calif., VP; and Patricia Conklin, Dixon (Calif.) May Fair, president.

Conklin invited everyone to mark their calendars for the WFA 2018 Feature Fair Tour at the Minnesota State Fair, St. Paul; and for the 2019 WFA convention, Jan. 13-16, at the Grand Sierra Resort, Reno, Nev.