Alexis Biasotti

PHOTO CAPTION: The Recreation Park auction ring for the Healdsburg Future Farmers Country Fair will be dark this year due to the fair’s COVID-19-caused cancelation. A “virtual” online auction has been organized by the fair board to take its place during May 21-22. Pictured above is last year’s Reserve Champion swine raised by Alexis Biasotti and bought by Kevin Barr, of Redwood Empire Vineyard Management. Photo Tribune Archive

Annual Twilight Parade might be staged later in the summer

Memorial Day never arrives in Healdsburg until after there has been a Twilight Parade through the center of town that kicks off the annual Healdsburg Future Farmers Country Fair. It’s been that way for 69 years. Chairs and blankets are set out on sidewalks early in the day. Some people have watched decades of the parade from the same curbside spot or the same friend’s front yard on Matheson or East Street.

But, as with nearly all other happenings this year, there will be no Twilight Parade this May and the Recreation Park fairgrounds will be silent and empty as well. Even the biggest and best steers are no match for the COVID-19 virus.

No one wants to figure out how to Zoom a parade but the fair board has organized a “virtual livestock auction” so local youth exhibitors can still sell their animals and recoup their expenses, and maybe some education fund money to boot.

“We have very high optimism,” said HFFCF board president Nick Dunkel. “These online auctions seem to work pretty good and we’ve already been hearing lots of interest from our loyal bidders.”

The fair board has waived all entry fees and are covering all other auction, shipping and meat processing costs so the youth participants might garner a little extra money. Photographed entries are now being uploaded by the 4-H and FFA members and bidders can now pre-register at the auction website at www.ez2bid.com.

Last year’s auction totaled $474,853 from 178 entries of beef, sheep, goats, swine and rabbits. Almost all of this year’s 4-H and FFA  members are planning to be part of the virtual auction, said Dunkel.

The young farmers and animal owners invest almost a year in some cases in raising the steers, pigs, sheep or goats. Their projects involve lots more than daily feeding. There’s also lots of journaling, animal science research and barnyard duties. By the time the annual auction arrives, a student can have hundreds, if not a thousand dollars invested.

Over the years, Healdsburg’s leading local businesses, agricultural community families and FFA alumni have been very generous with their bidding. Many of the top prize animals are usually purchased by Big John’s Market and featured days later at their meat department.

Auction previews will open soon for registered bidders at the website. The auction will be start at 8 a.m. on Thursday, May 21, the day this year’s Twilight Parade with the theme, “Healdsburg Fair 2020 …. A Roaring Good Time” was supposed to be held. The auction closes at 6 p.m. on Friday, May 22.

Another date to watch for is a possible date for a summer version of the Twilight Parade. “The city has been great and has told us they will work with us if we can find a date sometime over the summer,” Dunkel said.

No doubt many of the parade entry themes will be takes on staying strong through the COVID-19 pandemic.

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