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Generations of Amaros keep fairgrounds festive

Community Portrait
By: Story and photograph Michael Kirby
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For mother and daughter, Bonnie Amaro and D’Ambra Amaro-Mendoza, the Gold Country Fairgrounds has been a long-standing family tradition. The Amaro family has had at least one member involved with the Auburn Fair Boosters since 1962. The Auburn Fair Boosters is a non-profit group of volunteers that puts on events during the year at the fairgrounds and raises money to purchase and make improvements to the Gold Country Fairgrounds site. The Amaro family first became involved with the Auburn Fair in 1962 when then- fairgrounds manager Bunny Nakagawaya came up with the idea to solicit volunteers to help with preparations before the fair began and help with clean-up after. Bonnie Amaro’s father, Alfred Amaro, was one of the first of Nakagawaya’s fair helpers, and the Auburn Fair Boosters was born. The history of the Gold Country Fairgrounds goes back much further than 1962. The fairground’s history states a community fair in Auburn was originally started in 1889 and ran until 1902. Activity was suspended until 1935 when the California Legislature funded district agricultural fairs around the state. The 38-acre-parcel site, bordered by High Street, Auburn Folsom Road and Pleasant Avenue was developed and named the Auburn District Fair. A fair has been held there every year, except during World War II. In 1977 the name was changed to the Gold Country Fairgrounds. Many community events are also held during the year on the site. Bonnie Amaro was 9 years old in 1962, involved with 4-H activities and during the fair helped her parents with jobs around the grounds. “You could say I grew up at the fairgrounds,” Amaro said. “When I turned 18 I was able to join the Fair Boosters.” Amaro has remained a member and served as president of the Auburn Fair Boosters seven times. She met California Gov. Ronald Reagan in 1970 when he made a visit to Auburn after state-funding cuts had the fairgrounds on a closure list. Community members journeyed to Sacramento, showing support of the fairgrounds and convinced Reagan not to close the fairgrounds. Reagan halted the closure and in a speech at the fairgrounds, proclaimed the Auburn site, “The little fair that wouldn’t die.” Bonnie’s daughter, D’Ambra Amaro-Mendoza, followed family tradition and joined when she was old enough and is the current Fair Boosters president. She has a similar story as her mother’s growing up around activities at the fairgrounds, adding a third generation to the Amaro Gold Country Fairgrounds tradition. The Auburn Fair Boosters put on the annual Christmas Craft Fair, sponsor the Showcase of Photography, the Talent Show, Gold Country Fair Parade and run a beer booth during the fair in early September. The Boosters tackle a yearly project with funds they raise during the year, and purchase items on the fairground’s wish list. The beautiful white gazebo at the fairgrounds was a Fair Boosters’ project. The Auburn Fair Boosters have contributed more than $100,000 in project funds since 1962. “It was important to my parents, they really enjoyed the community. It a tradition for our family,” Bonnie Amaro said. “We have such beautiful grounds, our fairgrounds are a real gem.” The Fair Boosters meet once a month and are always looking for new members. Anyone interested is invited to call (530) 823-4533.