When the Fair is in Your Blood

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the fair? Cotton candy and hotdogs on a stick, carnival rides and games, music and entertainment or exhibits and competitions? Well, if you’re anything like me, it’s all about the exhibits and competitions — seeing the latest, greatest, most perfectly grown, most creative, most delicious, most interesting, most talented, best in show, Grand Champions and everything in between. Some people visit the fair, some participate and some get hooked for years or continue to dedicate their lives to the fair and its ideals of sharing the passion, pursuit of excellence, education and advancement in their area of interest… This is what happens when the Fair gets in your blood.

If you’ve ever run into Hailey Rose Switzer you’ll know what an energetic and positive whirlwind of activity she is. Quick talking, organized and sharp, there’s probably nothing she can’t do, from breaking out the saw, hammer and nails to build her daughter a lemonade stand to overseeing 150 Cal Poly students for the Cal Poly Western Bonanza, the largest student run livestock show in the Western United States. Are you surprised? Growing up in Santa Margarita, Hailey Rose Switzer is the third daughter of Joel and Terri Switzer and the Granddaughter of Jo Ann Arnold Switzer and if you’ve been in this area very long, or are involved in the agricultural world at all, yes, THAT Jo Ann Switzer.

People say that Jo Ann Switzer is “kind of a big deal” (that could easily be an understatement) but you’d never guess it by meeting her with her smile, twinkling eyes, easy laugh and modesty. Jo Ann Arnold Switzer grew up on her parents’ cattle ranch in Pozo and was bitten by the fair bug when she showed her champion lamb at the very first California Mid-State Fair in 1946. I guess it was all over from there. The fair got into her blood. 

Jo Ann has continued to participate in every California Mid-State Fair since and to this day still holds the record for the most Grand Champion Cattle. Her list of involvement and achievements could fill a novel and include being the Livestock Superintendent and a member of the Mid-State Fair Board of Directors, the first woman to be honored as Cattleman of the Year, induction into the Cal Poly Animal Science Department Hall of Fame and into the Mid State Fair Hall of Fame as well as the honor of being Queen of the 2018 Pioneer Day Parade.

Getting through this together, Atascadero

Jo Ann’s passion for the fair continues and has been passed down through generations with each of her four sons raising and showing market cattle and as soon as she could, her granddaughter, Hailey Rose was there to help hand out ribbons to the winners of the livestock shows. 

Hailey first started showing rabbits at the fair as a 4-H mini member, continuing on through 4-H and FFA, but her passion for the fair and livestock didn’t stop there. She steadily progressed, gaining organizational and administrative experience assisting in the fair office with livestock entries and working her way up while studying Ag Science with an emphasis on Ag Ed at Cal Poly. As a junior in college Hailey became the Livestock Superintendent at the Eastern Sierra Tri-County Fair in Bishop, a position she still holds. Since her graduation from Cal Poly, Hailey has become part of the faculty, teaching in the Animal Science Department, serving as the Faculty Advisor for Cal Poly’s Western Bonanza Livestock Show and teaching Ag Business centering on the fair industry. If that’s not enough, she is the current Coordinator of Special Programs, putting on the Rancho Frontier interactive area for the Mid-State Fair while also working in various capacities for six other fairs, including the Eastern Sierra Tri-County Fair, the Monterey County Fair, the So Cal Fair, the Salinas Valley Fair, the Merced County Spring Fair and the Blythe-Colorado River Fair. Thanks to technology and the telephone, Hailey is now able to do much of her work from home answering questions and using the Show Works program to handle entries and award payouts, allowing her to spend more time with family and her young daughter Holley Faye, the fourth generation involved, ready for her third year showing rabbits and placing entries in the Arts and Crafts division.

When the fair is in your blood there’s no stopping and Hailey Rose Switzer can see herself continuing to work for the fair long-term and focusing more on our local area. She says she would like to continue to grow the Western Bonanza, adding and modernizing with the times and hopes to see her students succeed out in the Ag and fair industries.