Gold Country Fair kicks off with a roar

By: Loryll Nicolaisen, Journal Staff Writer
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Kipling and his sisters Kizmet and Schicka have a pretty sweet setup for the weekend. After claiming a shady spot of their own at the Gold Country Fairgrounds Wednesday, the three Bengal tigers lazily watched humans setting up exhibits and readying for today’s big opening of the Gold Country Fair. Schicka seemed more entertained by taking bites out of the lawn, her large tongue testing the flavors of sod and dirt while Kipling and Kizmet bounced around their pen. Fairgoers have the chance to watch these three large cats interact with trainers Eric Weld and Chris Pollard three times a day during the fair, which continues through Sunday. Why is the show sure to be a draw this weekend? “They’re tigers,” Pollard said Wednesday morning — no further explanation necessary. Weld said this is the first time Brian McMillan’s Wild World of Tigers has come to the fair, and that visitors are sure to be both entertained by and educated about the endangered Bengal tigers. “It’s really mellow,” he said. “There’s less showmanship and more showing the relationship between us and the tigers.” Shows, held on the Point Lawn near the Fair Office, also include a question-and-answer period. “The most frequent one is, ‘Can I pet them?’ and the resounding answer is ‘No,’” Weld said. On the other side of the fairgrounds, the animals settling in Wednesday were a little less exotic. After padding pens with wood shavings, Meadow Vista’s Jeff and Nikki Spoor opened their truck’s tailgate and unloaded six of their daughter Madisson’s goats. “She missed school last week to do a fair with her horse, and she can’t miss more school, so we’re doing it for her,” Nikki Spoor said of her 12-year-old daughter. While Madisson’s shown animals at different fairs in the three years she’s been a part of Placer Hills 4H, the Spoor family prefers the Gold Country Fair for a number of reasons. “It’s local, it’s right here, and we like to support it,” Nikki Spoor said. “(Madisson) likes it because she gets to see her friends, and she makes a lot of friends.” The Gold Country Fair also has a nice, hometown feel, Spoor said. “It’s small,” she said. “The girls can go on the rides for an hour, and it feels safe — it’s so close.” Greg Hegwer, Gold Country Fair CEO, said all the hard work and set up and efforts by “an experienced, knowledgeable” staff is about to pay off. “It’s like choreographing a huge musical, and when you open the gates tomorrow, everybody says, ‘Oh, it looks nice in here,’” he said. “It is basically what Walt Disney wanted to have year-round and came up with Disneyland. That’s what we do for four days here in the community.” The Journal’s Loryll Nicolaisen can be reached at, or comment online at