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2009 S.L. County fair gets off to a rollicking start

SOUTH JORDAN — On Wednesday, Sarah Dibble didn't want to talk about not having a Salt Lake County Fair next year.

She was far too busy dealing with the myriad details that went with opening day of the 73rd annual gathering that will likely see 65,000 people come through the gates over its four-day duration.

"There's no time to worry about what may or may not happen," said Dibble, the fair's program coordinator. "We've got a great fair this year with tons of new exhibits and activities."

The near-term fate of the fair has been clouded by recent news out of Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon's office that funding for the event could be temporarily halted as part of wide-ranging efforts to trim the county's budget to cope with the current economic downturn.

While Dibble fielded cell phone calls, directed volunteers and checked in exhibitors on Wednesday, dozens of youths tended to lambs, pigs and steers at the livestock exhibits — proudly tending to the market animals they've been caring for for months in anticipation of the judging and competition that happens at the fair.

Utah State University extension agent and adviser to the Junior Livestock exhibitors at the fair, John Welsley, strode among the stalls and the busy kids like a proud father Wednesday. He, like Dibble, did not want to talk about what a year without a fair might look like.

"Some of these kids have been working since last fall on their projects," Welsley said. "This is their time to shine. … They want the community to come and see the work they've done and support them."

Welsley said the fair exhibitions represent the culmination of efforts for hundreds of 4-H and Future Farmers of America participants from throughout the county and the Salt Lake Valley. Elimination of the fair, Welsley said, would erase the opportunity for the livestock group to "share with their peers and everyone who comes through these gates the fine market animals they've raised themselves."

An effort to keep that opportunity viable next year was evidenced in bright-orange petition forms distributed throughout the grounds of the fair's annual venue, the Salt Lake County Equestrian and Events Center. The petition drive, sponsored by the Salt Lake County Fair Advisory Board, is seeking signatures to "not cancel the Salt Lake County Fair."

Welsley said most, if not all, of the livestock exhibitors and their families had already signed petitions and he hoped the drive would send a message to county government leaders to find budget savings elsewhere.

In the meantime, this year's event was in full swing Wednesday and hundreds of families were on the grounds visiting exhibits, snacking on fair treats in the food tent and getting hawked by purveyors of the next "must have" product.

The Nintendo company had the most active exhibit on opening day, drawing scads of tweens, teens and parents to the dozens of flat-screen monitors and stations set up to showcase their newest product — the Wii Motion Plus video game controller upgrade. A company representative said the controller represents "the latest in precision-in motion-technology."

Seth Stevens, a 13-year-old from West Jordan, was playing a sword-fighting game with his dad, Adrien. He had a slightly less technical description of the upgrade.

"This is the coolest thing ever," Stevens said.

e-mail: araymond@desnews.com

If you go...

What: 2009 Salt Lake County Fair

Where: 2100 West 11400 South, South Jordan

When: Gates open at 11 a.m. daily, through Saturday

More Info: Daily events schedules can be found at www.countyfair.slco.org