May Day Fair springs into action again in Los Banos, CA

The Los Banos Spring Fair is chock full of events for the entire family.

The Los Banos Spring Fair is chock full of events for the entire family.

This year’s Merced County Spring Fair in Los Banos, more than ever, has a “spring” in its step. Everyone, from exhibitors to fairgoers, seems to be excited about the upcoming event, which Los Banosans call the “May Day Fair.”

No wonder. After two years of canceled fairs, there is a special excitement about the 2022 event. Fairgoers have missed the livestock, photo, art, cooking and crafts exhibits, as well as the entertainment rides and food and beverage booths.

The fair starts on April 27, and more people than usual are expected that Wednesday at 10 a.m. when Los Banos Veterans officially open the fair by raising the American flag.

This year’s fair marshals are especially popular. Anyone who has worked with Larry and Rhonda Borelli knows what genuinely nice people they are and how hard they have worked to make past May Day Fairs successful.

For persons interested in saving money on fair entry and ride tickets, pre-sale discount tickets are available Monday through Friday now through April 26 at the Merced County Spring Fair office at 403 F Street (209.826.5166).

By now, all livestock and exhibits have been entered, and the entertainment as well as the food and beverage booths have been secured. Each evening will feature free entertainment and on Saturday the popular truck and tractor pull will take place.

The Los Banos Fairgrounds staff is ready for large crowds. They have spent months getting the buildings and grounds ready, led by this year’s fair manager,

Bob Walker. Walker has been a fair manager for most of his life, including his many years of supervision of Stanislaus County Fair in Turlock.

The excitement over this year’s fair extends outside of Los Banos. Young exhibitors from Gustine to Snelling and beyond are looking forward to displaying their animals and projects.

On April 30 the popular May Day Parade will take place with floats and bands from many cities in northern California participating. Already, Los Banos residents are trying to figure out the best places to put their lawn chairs to watch the Saturday morning parade go by.

The May Day Fair has fascinated me since the first one I attended in 1972, the year after I moved to Los Banos. A guy born and raised in the Chicago area, I was intrigued by the enthusiasm everyone in town had for the fair. I invited friends from other cities to join me to watch the parade and see the exhibits.

By 1976, when my two oldest kids were barely old enough for the rides, I looked forward to Kid’s Day Friday with free admission. The tradition of a free day on Friday for kids 12-and-under continues this year.

Although my wife Susan and I believed in good nutrition, we made exceptions for the corn dogs, cinnamon rolls and other fair treats.

All three of my kids entered exhibits. My first two, Ginny and Mike, entered craft, woodworking and cooking projects. However, my third child, Megan, decided in the fifth grade she wanted to raise a pig for the fair, as part of Los Banos’s Our Lady of Fatima School 4-H. Susan and I gave our approval, and Megan was off and running (or rather working).

Megan and her parents had wonderful support from OLF 4-H adult leaders, beginning with her first year of showing. Ken and Dan helped select a pig, Megan named him Nosebud and took care of him at the OLF School farm on Ramos Road.

That was the beginning of four consecutive years pig involvement and my increased understanding of what it takes to raise an animal for the fair. That included my making many trips to the pig farm for three months prior to the fair, watching Megan train her pig to walk next to her and shoveling pig manure (as parents do).

I also learned about market, showmanship and auction days and appreciated the many people in Los Banos who bid on young people’s animals, thereby replenishing the kids’ 4-H and FFA bank accounts.

Since then, I have an increased appreciation for every young person—in 4-H and FFA — as well as their adult club leaders and their parents. It takes a big commitment to show an animal.

This year my wife Sandy and I will be rooting for three of our granddaughters—Jaelyn, Taylor and Payton—who will be showing heifers, as well as entering projects in photography and crafts.

I tip my hat to everyone involved in the fair—participants, fairgoers and fairgrounds staff. And, like many other Los Banosans and other Merced County residents, I look forward to the five days of excitement at the end of this month.

On another note: Shiena Polehn, a longtime resident of Los Banos, passed away on April 1in Medford, OR. Shiena gave so much of her life to the people of Los Banos.

Many students of hers will remember the ESL and citizenship courses she taught at the Los Banos Campus of Merced College. Shiena was also an active member of AAUW and supported its many events.

I will remember Shiena’s kind and gentle demeanor, her warm smile and the wonderful holiday potlucks with her classes featuring every kind of wonderful ethnic dish that could be imagined.

Everyone who knew, worked with or was taught by Shiena mourns her loss.

John Spevak wrote this for the Los Banos Enterprise. His email is


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