Wyatt Botts (center) holds up a print of the “Back in the Saddle” themed poster for the 2022 Salinas Valley Fair during the Fair Kick-Off’s live auction Saturday evening. His grandfather, Joe Botts, created the hand-drawn artwork on the poster. This year’s fair returns May 12-15 at the fairgrounds in King City. (Sean Roney)

SALINAS VALLEY — Salinas Valley Fair hosted its annual Fair Kick-Off Dinner, Dance and Auction last Saturday at the fairgrounds in King City, where an estimated 450 guests attended.

The April 23 evening featured a dinner cooked by King City Young Farmers, a live auction hosted by auctioneer Mark Wright with 31 items, a silent auction with more than 120 items, and a night of dancing to the music of Lipstick Revolver.

The highest-bid item, six-person VIP passes to the 2023 King City Stampede, sold for $8,000 to two different winners.

The fundraiser marked the beginning of fair season, with this year’s Salinas Valley Fair taking place May 12-15. It was also one of the first outings for Miss Salinas Valley Fair 2022 Carli Hammond, who earned the title mere weeks earlier.

“The Salinas Valley Fair’s theme this year is ‘Back in the Saddle,’ and I will be there representing the fair as well as showing my steer,” Hammond said.

Miss Salinas Valley Fair 2022 Carli Hammond displays a chocolate ribbon cake from Madonna Inn during Saturday’s live auction. (Sean Roney)

Hammond, 18, from Salinas, has been showing animals for six years and said the first animal she raised was a pig, but she switched to steer when she got into high school. In addition to earning the crown and duties as Miss SVF, she also earned a $2,000 scholarship, silver belt buckle and silver concho.

“We are going to have a lot of fun rides and fun things to do for the public,” Hammond said about the fair’s return. “The livestock barns are open for the public, as is the auction.”

This year marks the first full return of the annual Salinas Valley Fair after being shut down in 2020 due to Covid-19 pandemic restrictions on all gatherings in California.

“All in-person, back to normal, with two auction rings, just like the good old days,” said Junior Livestock Auction Chair Cody Bassetti.

Matt Cauley stands atop a chair to call out bids during a heated contest for King City Stampede VIP tickets, which sold for $8,000, at the Salinas Valley Fair Kick-Off’s live auction on Saturday. An estimated 450 people attended the fundraiser. (Sean Roney)

Fair Vice President and Auction Chair Frank Lopez explained the full in-person fair has had a two-year lapse, and thanked the community support during the Kick-Off on Saturday as a sign the community is ready for events.

“There’s a lot of other stuff going on today,” Bassetti said. “There’s a local family getting married. There’s a high school prom. So to have this many people (at the Kick-Off) I think is awesome.”

Bassetti said this year’s fair has 735 animals entered, which is lower than prior non-pandemic years, but is a sign of a return to normalcy. With two auction rings, he said the May 14 auction will begin at 8 a.m. and is expected to wrap up by 2:30 p.m.

The past two years included virtual auctions, food vendor-only zones, and drive-thru Kick-Off dinners, by contrast.

Miss King City Stampede 2022 Maddy Black holds up a plate of cookies baked by Ashleigh Young during the April 23 live auction at the local fairgrounds. (Sean Roney)

Lopez and Bassetti noted people can expect the same fair experience from 2019 and before, from corn dogs to funnel cakes.

“You can ride the little train around the fair,” Bassetti said.

Saturday evening’s bidding was active, with Bassetti adding that bids were similar to 2019 and before, especially for the pies.

“Our turnout was just spectacular and we want to thank everybody in the community for coming out and being so supportive,” Lopez said.

Lipstick Revolver sings retro rock songs as a crowd forms to dance at the end of the Fair Kick-Off on Saturday. (Sean Roney)
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Sean Roney is a freelance reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for the Salinas Valley communities in South Monterey County.


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