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Before judges get to work examining the first exhibits of the Nevada County Fair, two special blue ribbons have already been awarded.

KNCO Radio Program Director Tom Fitzsimmons and West Coast Equine Sports Therapy operator Alyssa Mayo have been named the 2021 Blue Ribbon Award winners by the Nevada County Fair Board of Directors.

The Western Fairs Association Blue Ribbon Award recognizes and honors individuals or groups who have provided outstanding support to the Fair and/or the fair industry.

Fitzsimmons was chosen for his many years of broadcasting live from the Fair as well as showcasing exhibitors and events from the KNCO studios prior to the Fair.

“The Fair is absolutely the best event, and this year it will be even more important,” said Fitzsimmons. “There is a wholesomeness to the fair, from the first day when scholars and students are honored through Military Day and concluding with the Junior Livestock Auction.”

Fitzsimmons has broadcast live at the Fair from the KNCO gazebo for 26 years, as many years as he has worked for Nevada County Broadcasting. During the past few years, he has also covered live the Junior Livestock and Ag Mechanics Auctions.

“Broadcasting those events have brought more people to the events, many of whom have become buyers,” said Fitzsimmons.

In the weeks leading up to the Fair, Fitzsimmons reads live on-air up to 60 letters written by livestock exhibitors and ag mechanics students. The letters encourage prospective buyers to participate and bid.

“The first year, I read letters basically to fill time,” recalled Fitzsimmons, “but they were so well-received, I made the letters part of our pre-Fair programming. Listeners immediately gave positive feedback and wanted to hear more. The letters are cute and funny, and I share the goofy names the kids give their animals.”

Fitzsimmons hosts exhibitors on his Insight talk show before the Fair, and also broadcasts live from Community Involvement Day, this year on August 2 from 1-6 PM. Everyone is invited to go to the fairgrounds’ Main Street Center and donate to participating local nonprofits or give blood, and in exchange, receive free or special Fair admission ticket pricing.

This year’s other Blue Ribbon Award winner is Alyssa Mayo, who operates West Coast Equine Sports Therapy owned by her father, John. The facility is located at the former Maple Leaf Stables in Penn Valley. Among other therapies, the business features an AquaPacer, which is an above-ground underwater treadmill that offers low-impact exercise and conditioning for horses and dogs.

Mayo organized an elaborate fundraiser for the Fair last year after COVID forced the fairgrounds to cancel all income-generating events.

“The Save Our Fairgrounds fundraiser was in October 2020 and raised more than $20,000,” Mayo explained. “Individuals, artists, and businesses throughout the area donated $10,000 worth of items and services. We held a virtual auction so people could participate online, and we hosted a large in-person auction with major items from artwork to vacations to event tickets.

“We served a BBQ dinner prepared by the Silver Dollar Saloon and Restaurant from Marysville. Vintage Duels brought out a few of their race cars and Arnall Photography donated family photos at the event. Local 4-H and FFA members helped with the auction. We had approximately 150 people attend and people from all over the US participated virtually.” 

Mayo, 34, says for as long as she can remember, she’s been participating in demonstrations at the horse arena during the Fair.

“This year, we will have several of our students riding and showing off their skills,” said Mayo, whose West Coast Equine Sports Therapy offers boarding, training, and lessons. “The focus of our demonstrations will be how to negotiate obstacles and build a trusting bond with your horse.”

Mayo is also involved with the fairgrounds as a teamster in the Draft Horse Classic.

“This will be my seventh year competing at the DHC,” said Alyssa. “I will be competing in Ladies Pleasure Driving and Gambler’s Choice, and one of my students will be driving in the PeeWee class.”

Mayo added, “I grew up in this beautiful community and my childhood is filled with memories of the Nevada County Fair and Draft Horse Classic. I want my future children to be able to say the same thing.”

Tom Fitzsimmons and Alyssa Mayo will be honored at the 2021 Nevada County Fair’s Opening Ceremony August 11. Each will receive an official Western Fairs Association Blue Ribbon Award with custom engraving and blue ribbon framed under glass.

This year’s Nevada County Fair will be held August 11-15.  For more information, visit www.NevadaCountyFair.com.