Throughout the Western United States, it is very common to find the center of any emergency or crisis to be the local fairgrounds. They serve as evacuation centers for people and animals, fire camps, COVID testing and vaccination centers, cooling and heating centers, and even homeless shelters. The annual county fair is, of course, the “Super Bowl” event of these facilities, but the bulk of the use at a fairgrounds is serving the community with whatever it may need. In Plumas County, we are all too aware of how the needs of our community in crisis put aside the joy of many events, including our Fair. Two years in a row.
2022 looks like we will see our Fair return, along with many other events we all look forward to. As we shift back into what has always been “normal”, the Plumas Sierra County Fairgrounds has taken a deep look into what it does, and what it should do. Make no mistake, the core purpose of a county fair is to share what a community makes, grows and raises. The fair judges and recognizes these products, as fairs have done for centuries. The goal of every message leading up to the fair is to encourage people to enter their flowers, vegetables, quilts and photographs. Perhaps we have become too complacent. Maybe we should be asking where the innovation is. Everyday items were once the most amazing innovations on earth; Cracker Jacks, the Ferris Wheel, Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, electricity for goodness sake! All introduced at a fair. Why not us?
And why not now? A series of circumstances might just point to now being the perfect time to innovate. The presence of the Dixie Fire Camp was certainly an economic help to the Plumas Sierra County Fairgrounds. The devastation of Indian Valley has created a no-less than “start from scratch” situation in that beautiful area. Since the ultimate goal of the fairgrounds is to show the world what its community makes, grows and raises, it only makes sense that the Plumas Sierra County Fairgrounds invests some of the funds it earned from the Dixie Fire Camp to do that. It also makes sense that since many people have lost their ability to can, sew, or grow, we have to start working together to innovate. And finally, if we put together the resources available at this moment in time, there is no reason we cannot create products that the world would want to know about. If we can do that, then the world will want to buy those things, and THAT’S how we start to rebuild economically.
Where do we start? The Plumas Sierra County Fairgrounds is proposing the creation of the Indian Valley Innovation Hub. In a nutshell, the goal is to organize a group of people to gather resources in the form of mentors, experts, tools, equipment, marketing, distribution, financing and branding to encourage the people in Indian Valley to innovate. What kind of products, or services can be developed with the knowledge and raw materials available right now in that community? Does the presence of burnt timber or small diameter trees present an opportunity for home accents, furniture or frames? Are there crops that grow especially well in Indian Valley that can be packaged, branded and sold to restaurants in North Tahoe? Those might be the stupid ideas! But every idea is worth looking at.
There are two meetings scheduled to explore this concept; Wednesday, April 13 from 6 to 8pm and Saturday, April 30 from 11am to 1pm. Both will be held in the Greenville Elementary School Cafeteria. A presentation will be given on how an idea like this would be organized, and then the floor will be opened up to product ideas. This will be the chance to see if there are, in fact, innovative ideas worth pursuing.
Attendees will be asked if they know of anyone who has expertise in certain areas; machine working, wood working, marketing, packaging, logistics or industrial design. They will be asked if they have or know where we can acquire tools and equipment for use in developing these projects. Most importantly, they will be asked to share ideas. There will be no need for a presentation, or explanation, just an idea. We will write it on some paper, and when we are all done, we will look at it and say, “Yeah, this is a good idea.” or “We got nothing, let’s look at something else.” Either way is progress.