Amid management turmoil and acting as haven for Pajaro evacuees, county fair turns to another interim director

Santa Cruz county fairgrounds image from above
The Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds from above.
(Via Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds Foundation)

The debate over Santa Cruz County Fairs present and future continued vociferously Tuesday evening as the fair’s board of directors announced a new interim CEO.

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After a three-hour special meeting Tuesday, the Santa Cruz County Fair board of directors named Ken Alstott as the fair’s new interim CEO. Alstott, who was chosen on a unanimous vote, has held a similar position at the San Bernardino County Fair, the Mother Lode Fair in Sonora and at the Cow Palace in Daly City.

The appointment was the latest development in a saga of turmoil and uncertainty that dates back to last October and the controversial firing of longtime CEO Dave Kegebein. Tuesday’s meeting, held only on Zoom, took place after the cancellation of the regular board meeting at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds earlier in the day. It also came less than a week after the resignations of the board’s chair, Don Dietrich, and Kelley Ferreira, the interim CEO hired to replace Kegebein.

The hiring of Alstott took place in a closed session during Tuesday’s Zoom meeting. Before that closed session, the board allowed time for public comments from some of the approximately 90 people participating in the meeting. In what’s become common in fair board meetings in recent months, commenters aired various grievances while trading accusations and indignant counterattacks against each other. Dietrich, the target of much of the ire of the crowd while he was chairing the board, was in fact praised in his absence on Tuesday.

A couple of commenters criticized the condition of the fairgrounds, which has been open for six weeks as a refuge for those displaced by the March floods in Pajaro. “Everything is falling apart,” one commenter told the board. “[The grounds are] filthy. You really need to take pride in this place.”

Others shot back that the circumstances of the fairgrounds serving as an evacuation center, as well as the chaos in the leadership positions at the fair, have left little room for normal maintenance of the grounds. A man identifying himself as the maintenance director said, “This is all just really unfair. We’re getting slandered, and it’s just not right.”

Previous Santa Cruz County Fair coverage

After the surprising ouster of 11-year CEO Dave Kegebein earlier this month, the two board members who opposed the...

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