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It’s that time of the year again – the State Fair! Having been involved with teams that design and constructed multiple Golden Bear (Best of Show) awards, it brings about a certain amount of nostalgia. This week before the fair was always a flurry of activity. Not only are the carnies setting up the Midway, but it always the time to assemble the fruits of year’s worth of work to design, prefabricate and install the County exhibits.

I feel fortunate to have worked for a particular leader, Larry Oddo at the County of Placer, who carried enthusiasm and competitiveness to an extreme, along with a “Why not?” attitude. A concept had to be fun and educational and tell a story about the county in an entertaining way. Every year was a race to outdo the competition and last year’s success. Of course best if it won the Golden Bear. It didn’t hurt that the display case in our lobby proudly shared the past Golden Bears.

So if I approached the team with a concept it was always met with support.

A glass-bottom Lake Tahoe that you could walk under? “Yes! Build it!”

Or a 34 foot high ball run with a video projection room “Sure thing!”

A giant tree with animatronic gnomes “Why not?”

An erupting Mt. Pluto (the same mountain that exists today, and according to geologists, served to plug the ancient river and thereby forming Lake Tahoe) “Let’s do it!”

Or even this, a tiny gold rush era town, complete with animatronics, playing with the visitor’s sense of scale “Absolutely!”

We would then go about building the exhibit in our shops in Auburn. We used scrap and donated materials and a lot of the work was done by minimum security “trustees” in the Auburn Jail. County building mechanics and sheriff’s deputies oversaw carpenters, welders, painters, electricians and craftspeople.

When the time came, the exhibit was shipped to Cal Expo, assembled and detailed in time for the California State Fairgoers to enjoy.


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