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Merrill Award

The Merrill Award, named in honor of Western Fairs Association Founder Louis Merrill, is given for those entries that clearly demonstrate innovation, vision, and excellence.
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2016 Merrill Award Winners

Nevada County Fair

Nevada County Fair

The Nevada County Fairgrounds is nominated for their Community Involvement Day.

After years of incorporating community giving into the fair lineup, the Nevada County Fairgrounds decided that they could better showcase their partner charities by providing a separate Community Involvement Day. By creating a special donation opportunity a week prior to the annual fair, the Fairgrounds connected the community directly with local charities like never before.

The Foodbank of Nevada County, Foothill Lion’s Club, Nevada County 2-1-1 (school supplies donations), and the Story Club of Nevada County (book donations) were among the charities who participated in the Community Involvement Day. Community participants received ‘buy one get one free’ fair admission tickets in exchange for donations, and those who gave blood to BloodSource received one free fair admission ticket each.

As a thank you for their community’s participation, the Fairgrounds has given out over 2300 vouchers.
 
OC Fair & Event Center

OC Fair & Event Center

The OC Fair is nominated for their ‘All Our Friends’ and ‘We Care Wednesdays’ programs.

The purpose of the ‘All Our Friends’ program was to create a private VIP experience at the OC Fair for guests with special needs. Held during the morning hours prior to fair opening, guests were treated to complimentary admission, parking, and –thanks to a partnership with Ray Cammack Shows - carnival rides. The Centennial Farm, livestock exhibits, and petting zoo were all open and available for guests to explore.

The OC Fair has also incorporated 'We Care Wednesdays' into the run of their fair, where guests can bring donations in exchange for free fair admission and one free carnival ride. The donations feature a different theme every week such as canned foods, clothing, school supplies, and children’s books in cooperation with local organizations.
 
The Big Fresno Fair

The Big Fresno Fair

The Big Fresno Fair is nominated for their involvement in the creation and management of the Fresno County Historical Museum.

The largest capital improvement campaign at The Big Fresno Fair in the last decade, the new Museum is a $3 million project and occupies both levels of a new 14,000 sqft building. The first floor hosts exhibits ranging from indigenous artifacts to local sports heroes, and even includes a logging exhibit. The second level contains a mock-up historical courtroom and opens its balcony to the Paul Paul Theater, which in turn is surrounded with refurbished neon signs from Fresno’s past.

During the run of the annual fair, The Big Fresno Fair offers guided tours to fair guests that includes a visit to The Big Fresno Fair Museum next door.
 
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Other 2016 Merrill Award Finalists

Marin County Fair

Marin County Fair

Marin County Fair is nominated for their event Step Right Up! A Fundraising Evening for Marin County Public Schools.

SchoolsRule-Marin is the first countywide organization to collaborate with every district in Marin County to improve education for every student.

The Marin County Fair collaborated with a team of local leaders to organize the Step Right Up! Gala, which exclusively featured Marin County Students as the entertainment.

In addition to raising $607,000 in net profit, the event also raised a great deal of awareness for SchoolsRule-Marin, who is proud to continue their partnership with the Marin County Fair in 2017.
 
San Diego County Fair

San Diego County Fair

The San Diego County Fair is nominated for their “Mad About the Fair” theme.

Breaking from the traditional agriculture-based approach when considering their annual theme, the San Diego County Fair ventured into a world of fantasy, imagination, and fun. Transporting guests to the world of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, the Fair offered a ‘Tea Time in Wonderland’ experience, flamingo golf croquet, a 22,000 square foot Wonderland exhibit, and displayed first editions of the novel.

Adding to the Wonderland theme, the Fair partnered with their local Steampunk Society to entertain patrons with costumed grounds acts and a Summer Steam Maker Festival.

Hosting a record 1,609,481 guests, the San Diego County Fair attributes their innovative theme as a significant contributing factor; a position supported by guest surveys, in which over 15% of attendees stated that the fair’s theme was a big influence on their decision to attend the fair (compared to the previous year’s 7%).
 
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Past Merrill Award Winners

2016 - Nevada County Fair • OC Fair & Event Center • Big Fresno Fair
2015 - Marin County Fair
2014 - Del Norte County Fair • Big Fresno Fair
2013 - Calgary Stampede • Washington County Fair
2012 - California Mid-State Fair • Grand National Rodeo • Monterey County Fair • San Benito County Fair • Santa Barbara County Fair • Ventura County Fair
2011 - Big Fresno Fair

2010 - Alameda County Fair
2009 - California Mid-State Fair
2008 - Alameda County Fair • Marin County Fair
2007 - Los Angeles County Fair • Marin County Fair
2006 - Big Fresno Fair • Minnesota State Fair
2005 - Calgary Stampede • San Diego County Fair
2004 - Antelope Valley Fair • Salinas Valley Fair
2003 - Redwood Acres Fair
2002 - Orange County Fair • Tulelake-Butte Valley Fair
2001 - Los Angeles County Fair • Western Washington Fair

2000 - Nadine Lowery • Kern County Fair
1999 - Western Washington Fair
1998 - Calgary Stampede • Marin County Fair
1997 - Del Mar Fair
1996 - California State Fair
1995 - Marin County Fair
1994 - California State Fair • Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo
1993 - Calgary Stampede • Napa Valley Exposition • Orange County Fair
1992 - Merced County Fair • School Involvement Fair • Calgary Stampede
1991 - Western Fair

1990 - Sam Abbott
1989 - Orange County Fair • Festival at the Lake
1987 - Tulare County Fair • Colorado River Country Fair • California State Fair
1986 - New Mexico State Fair • Edmonton Northlands
1985 - Orange County Fair • Ventura County Fair • Sonoma County Fair • Los Angeles County Fair
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