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After being forced out of Yreka due to the McKinney fire, the Siskiyou Gold Fair moved an hour north to a warm reception at The Expo.

Hannah Harrison, 14, of Yreka prepares her cow Friday during the Siskiyou Gold Fair, held this year at the Jackson County Expo because of the McKinney fire. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]

Jason Franklin, 13, of Yreka, shows off a turkey Friday during the Market Turkey Show at the Siskiyou Gold Fair at The Expo. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]

Uriel Valdez, 20, of Yreka, practices her roping skills Friday at The Expo. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]

With all the buzz Friday, the scene at the Jackson County Expo looked like just another opening day at the county fair.

Except it wasn’t.

Junior cattlemen and their families, trainers and supporters from Siskiyou County, Calif., made the short trek from their home fairgrounds in Yreka to host their summer cattle show and sale at the fairgrounds in ‘on the other side of the state border.

With its own Siskiyou Gold Fair (scheduled for August 10-14) canceled by the 60,000-acre McKinney Fire, hundreds of children were left stranded just days before the fair.

The McKinney fire is now 80 percent contained, but firefighting operations are ongoing and life in Siskiyou County is still far from normal.

With the animals just in time for weigh-in at the fair, months of work and dedication to preparing for the annual show and sale looked like it might go to waste with nowhere to show.

Adding insult to injury, cattlemen had already dealt with other cancellations and struggles in recent years due to the pandemic and other fires.

On Friday in Central Point, however, life felt pretty normal, offering a kind of Jeffersonian camaraderie between two counties. The Expo was filled with posters with thanks and nicknames from Northern California clubs.

Siskiyou and Jackson County officials came together to organize the event this weekend, hosting meals for auction buyers, organizing supply trucks and even lining up some food trucks for fairgoers . Volunteers helped transport animals north and a bus company provided transportation for the families.

The weigh-in began with steers, heifers, poultry and turkeys on Friday morning, and the kids were ready to present the fruits of their labor, brushing busy cows, battling unruly turkeys and keeping an eye on the show schedule .

Mary Heffernan, owner of Five Marys Burgers in Fort Jones, Calif., was waiting with daughter Maisie, 13, and the teenager’s son, Hank.

“We’re so thankful they let us out. We dry camped with friends last night, so it felt like we still had some of that fair experience. It was a change, but these kids are pretty resilient. They’ve had a rough few years, so they roll with the punches,” Mary Heffernan said.

“The reason they’re doing this is to raise these animals to put food on a family’s table, so they can still do it, and the timing worked. A lot of these bosses are ready to finish, and they’re doing just that (with a fair), so even having to wait a week would have been a big deal for those kids.”

Etna, Calif. resident Orin Lewis and his 16-year-old son Beau prepared the teenager’s market beef inside the Krause Barn. A champion pig presenter for two years, the teenager was grateful to use “such a nice facility”. The father and son said Siskiyou Gold Fair CEO Cliff Munson was as resourceful as the rural communities that pepper their Northern California region.

“We weren’t worried about it not happening. I think we all knew Cliff was going to make sure it happened, whether it was in a barn or not,” the father said. In Lewis Boys Lane, a heifer named Mark, yes Mark, was dried by sisters Yreka, Hannah and Hadley Harrison.

Mark was ready for the show, but he would go home with the sisters after the fair. Hannah Harrison, 14, said she had been more concerned about the beef and poultry exhibitors with the Siskiyou Fair canceled.

“Luckily I have a spare heifer so even if I couldn’t sell her I could keep her and breed cows out of her but once a market steer gets that big and that old they have to ‘finish,’ he said. .

“It was great how the two communities came together for us.”

Etna High School FFA member Wendy Hurliman and daughter Kalista prepared a heifer named Honey for the show. The mother echoed the sentiments of others, expressing confidence in the leadership.

“We’re used to our fairgrounds, and we love our fairgrounds and the whole tradition of going there, so that part was tough, but I think we all knew our leadership would know,” he said.

Coming out of the ring, taking second place with his turkey and carrying a showmanship trophy, Isaac Martin and his mother, Laura, gathered an excited turkey named Buttercup. The family said they felt right at home at Olsrud Arena, filled with corrals and familiar faces.

“We’re usually more beef people, but turkeys were a fun thing to try this year,” Mom said.

“One difference, at our fair the turkeys were on Wednesday and the heifers were on Friday, so we had to make it work (to manage both events),” the mother said.

Isaac added: “It’s a little bit different. It took me a while to find everything yesterday, but I’m really glad I was here.”

Waiting for his turn in the show ring, Yreka High School and FFA officer Jackson Wood gave his steer, Bart, an ear scratch. The teenager’s grandmother, Robin Wood, picked up the trash and spoke to the children.

“It’s great that they let us use this place so we got to keep it clean. We’re very grateful. We know it’s a lot of work, especially after cleaning everything up after their own fair,” he said.

“It’s great to open the doors to us.”

The elder Wood said he could think of no other group better equipped to handle change and upheaval than those raised in rural areas to care for animals and learn to survive in the world.

“Kids who do all of this can cope with anything. They’re out in the world, talking to people, working with their animals. They weren’t stuck during the pandemic playing video games all day, they were still working and doing the seat,” he said.

“Yreka and Etna have an excellent FFA program. And these kids are as resilient as they come.”

Auction buyers can attend the livestock sale in person or online at Sales are scheduled for 6pm on Saturday and 10am on Sunday.

Contact Mail Tribune reporter Buffy Pollock at 541-776-8784 or Follow her on Twitter @orwritergal.

The Siskiyou Gold Fair is held at The Expo Friday. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]

The Siskiyou Gold Fair is held Friday at the Jackson County Expo. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]

The Siskiyou Gold Fair is held Friday at the Jackson County Expo. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]

The Siskiyou Gold Fair is held Friday at the Jackson County Expo. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]

Uriel Valdez, 20, of Yreka, practices her roping skills Friday at The Expo. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]

The Siskiyou Gold Fair is held Friday at the Jackson County Expo. Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune

The Siskiyou Gold Fair is held Friday at the Jackson County Expo. Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune

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