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Bailing out the last frontier

Fair officials from Modoc County in far northeastern California secured $100,000 from the Del Mar Fair Board to create Burning Man tourism sites.
Fair officials from Modoc County in far northeastern California secured $100,000 from the Del Mar Fair Board to create Burning Man tourism sites.

There’s been a lot of talk about the northern part of California breaking away from its nether regions to form one or more new states. Last September, before a standing-room-only crowd of 40, Modoc County supervisors voted 4-0 to join the supervisors of neighboring Siskiyou County to begin formation of the breakaway state of Jefferson. “California is essentially ungovernable in its present size,” Mark Baird, a spokesperson for the Jefferson Declaration Committee, told a few reporters who had trekked all the way up to the small cowboy town of Alturas, the county seat of Modoc, a sprawling land with a frontier sensibility that borders Oregon and Nevada and has a human population of 9300, along with a sizable contingent of cattle, sheep, horses, and border collies. “We lack the representation to address the problems that affect the North State.”

Meanwhile, back at the fast track in sunny San Diego, another arm of Modoc government was asking for another handout from the well-heeled Southern California denizens who run the state’s 22nd District Agricultural Association, otherwise known as the Del Mar Fair Board. Back in December 2012, Modoc District Fair manager Dannette DePaul appeared before the Del Mar board to request $100,000 — to be matched by $50,000 from the Mark & Jessie Milano Foundation of Wilmington, Delaware — to bail out Modoc’s “Last Frontier” county fair, held every August in the rustic town of Cedarville, located in the county’s scenic Surprise Valley. Hard times had hit the little fair and its traditional Calcutta cattle-roping competition and various displays of the region’s best fruits, nuts, and alfalfa. “The Modoc District Fair is not requesting financial assistance from the San Diego County Fair for charity or to continue to operate as fairs have in the past,” DePaul insisted.

Instead, she said, Modoc would use the cash to set up moneymaking ventures, such as campgrounds and showers for those traveling through town on their way to the annual Burning Man art event about a hundred miles to the south in Nevada’s Black Rock desert. Another revenue-enhancing idea was for the Modoc fair to offer tourists “Lodging Stays Combined with Local Activities,” including “squirrel hunts, bird hunts, [and] coyote hunts.” So, how did those ventures go? Sadly, not as well as planned, related DePaul on her most recent 744-mile pilgrimage from Modoc to Del Mar last month, where she made a pitch for more cash from her wealthy San Diego cousins. “Dannette DePaul, CEO of the Modoc County Fair, gave a presentation regarding some of the programs they have tried to implement to generate more revenue for their Fair and the challenges they still face,” according to the minutes of last month’s fair-board meeting.

“Ms. DePaul asked the Board to donate $25,000 to help them get through another year. There was lengthy discussion regarding the options for the Modoc County Fair.” In the end, Modoc got its money. Reached by phone this week, DePaul said the latest fundraising idea is an online auction of horses, border collies, and farm implements.

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Fair officials from Modoc County in far northeastern California secured $100,000 from the Del Mar Fair Board to create Burning Man tourism sites.
Fair officials from Modoc County in far northeastern California secured $100,000 from the Del Mar Fair Board to create Burning Man tourism sites.

There’s been a lot of talk about the northern part of California breaking away from its nether regions to form one or more new states. Last September, before a standing-room-only crowd of 40, Modoc County supervisors voted 4-0 to join the supervisors of neighboring Siskiyou County to begin formation of the breakaway state of Jefferson. “California is essentially ungovernable in its present size,” Mark Baird, a spokesperson for the Jefferson Declaration Committee, told a few reporters who had trekked all the way up to the small cowboy town of Alturas, the county seat of Modoc, a sprawling land with a frontier sensibility that borders Oregon and Nevada and has a human population of 9300, along with a sizable contingent of cattle, sheep, horses, and border collies. “We lack the representation to address the problems that affect the North State.”

Meanwhile, back at the fast track in sunny San Diego, another arm of Modoc government was asking for another handout from the well-heeled Southern California denizens who run the state’s 22nd District Agricultural Association, otherwise known as the Del Mar Fair Board. Back in December 2012, Modoc District Fair manager Dannette DePaul appeared before the Del Mar board to request $100,000 — to be matched by $50,000 from the Mark & Jessie Milano Foundation of Wilmington, Delaware — to bail out Modoc’s “Last Frontier” county fair, held every August in the rustic town of Cedarville, located in the county’s scenic Surprise Valley. Hard times had hit the little fair and its traditional Calcutta cattle-roping competition and various displays of the region’s best fruits, nuts, and alfalfa. “The Modoc District Fair is not requesting financial assistance from the San Diego County Fair for charity or to continue to operate as fairs have in the past,” DePaul insisted.

Instead, she said, Modoc would use the cash to set up moneymaking ventures, such as campgrounds and showers for those traveling through town on their way to the annual Burning Man art event about a hundred miles to the south in Nevada’s Black Rock desert. Another revenue-enhancing idea was for the Modoc fair to offer tourists “Lodging Stays Combined with Local Activities,” including “squirrel hunts, bird hunts, [and] coyote hunts.” So, how did those ventures go? Sadly, not as well as planned, related DePaul on her most recent 744-mile pilgrimage from Modoc to Del Mar last month, where she made a pitch for more cash from her wealthy San Diego cousins. “Dannette DePaul, CEO of the Modoc County Fair, gave a presentation regarding some of the programs they have tried to implement to generate more revenue for their Fair and the challenges they still face,” according to the minutes of last month’s fair-board meeting.

“Ms. DePaul asked the Board to donate $25,000 to help them get through another year. There was lengthy discussion regarding the options for the Modoc County Fair.” In the end, Modoc got its money. Reached by phone this week, DePaul said the latest fundraising idea is an online auction of horses, border collies, and farm implements.

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I read somewhere only 8 people stopped by their "Burning Man campground" last year. This was supposed to be their big money-maker.

Feb. 12, 2014

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