As the 38th Annual Junior Fair gets bustling with animals, fun and the serious business of competition and auction, it can also be a time of pleasant memories and fulfillment for a lot of Ramona’s longtime residents, and among the leading ones would be former plumbing contractor and pig breeder Jim Robinson—a perpetual volunteer at the fair’s grounds.
“It really is remarkable how families and businesses come together to constantly support the kids involved in the 4-H, FFA and Grange programs supported by the fair,” said Robinson as he took a few moments away from helping install new ceilings and air conditioning in the grounds’ barns.
Ramona Junior Fair was born out of a desire by a group of parents to make it more inclusive for more of the kids, Robinson said.
“At the Del Mar (fair), only the kids winning blue ribbons could be included in the auction and the Ramona group wanted the kids with red ribbons to be included as well, so they started their own fair which, for the first couple of years, was held in Kit Carson Park in Escondido.
“Then it was brought up here and located on the other side of the creek bottom until the mid 1970s, when a downpour on auction night washed everything out. All they had were some telephone poles with parachute tarps strung over them and the kids were trying to get things done in the rain while others moved the booths—it was a mess,” said Robinson.
So a group of parents got together and wrote off to seek grants from such government agencies as the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) and the Small Business Administration (SBA) and got enough to build the two metal barns that have been on the property ever since, and are now being updated with new ceilings and air conditioning.
Things like the fair “show rural America at its best,” said Robinson.
“We needed a pump station for the bathroom and other fixtures, so Angus Tobiason came up with a very fair proposal to do the work, and he sought a financial deposit from each vendor or group who would benefit,” said Robinson. “When the work was finished, he gave everyone their deposit back. There is a lot of generosity on such a scale that has gone into developing this fair.”
“Laurann Volk is another supporter who donated and installed all the holding pens for the animals,” said Robinson. “She takes care of our fencing and is a regular buyer at the auction, buying hundreds, probably thousands of dollars worth of animals. There are lots of people who support the animal and pie auctions regularly, sometimes paying for the animal and then donating it back for resale so the fair can make a profit. Like all the others, Laurann never talks about it. She just supports the fair in every way she can.”
It was through such a sale that Robinson became active in the fair.
“We’d raised a few pigs at home and when my youngest was 9 years old, 27 years ago, he and his brother, then 13, wanted to join 4-H and raise a pig. The youngest stayed with it but the oldest dropped out. At the next fair the young ‘un won first in class and reserve grand champion, selling the pig for about $400. When the older brother saw how much he got for that pig, there was no way he could be kept out of 4-H or the fair.