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Santa Maria Fairpark fundraising to keep gates open

Posted at 6:02 PM, Sep 23, 2020

The Santa Maria Fairpark is asking for help from the community to keep the gates open.

With large annual events canceled, the facility has been struggling since the beginning of the pandemic and now fairpark officials are having to get creative to keep things running.

"It's going to be a tragedy if they lose that space and continue not to have that fair,” said Michael Maglinte, one of many Central Coast residents who call the Santa Maria Fairpark a city staple.

"It's a showcase for the crop that we have here. It's a showcase for FFA and all the work that they do,” Maglinte said.

The fairpark has taken a big financial hit this year due to the pandemic.

"Although we are a state agency, we aren't funded by the state and we are self-funded," said the president of the Santa Maria Fair Park Foundation Rebecca Barks.

Big events like the Strawberry Festival and the Santa Barbara County Fair generate millions in revenue for the fairpark and with those canceled, the fairpark has had to think outside the box on ways to stay open.

Events like a fairpark rummage sale and a drive-thru barbecue are now planned this October.

"So, just with those small fundraisers, that just helps us pay another bill.. maybe it's our electricity, maybe it's our water bill," said fairpark CEO Autumn Aquistapace.

The fairpark has been forced to make significant cuts in recent months, including going from 30-plus employees to now just six employees running the entire facility.

Fairpark officials say now is the time to come together and help sustain the fairgrounds.

"It is crucial that we step it up right now as the foundation, as the community, as those who have enjoyed this to really give back to keep those doors open,” Barks said.

"If we can get to January and then see that there are a future and a light at the end of the tunnel, that would be amazing in itself,” Aquistapace said.

Fairpark officials say that this time of year usually consists of many private events, like quinceaneras and weddings, at the fair park, but those, too, are not taking place this year.

Some of the things that are still happening at the fairpark right now include a Sunday swap meet, COVID-19 testing, and RV rental space.