Leadership Auburn gives fairgrounds entrance a makeover

By: Gloria Young,
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To purchase an engraved brick, visit leadershipauburn.
To view the fairgrounds project video, visit http://youtube/


When it came to choose this year’s community project for Leadership Auburn, participant Don Ales knew he wanted to do something for the Gold Country Fairgrounds.
“I’ve lived here 30 years and I’ve been going to that fair and all the different events there ever since (I arrived),” he said
After input from fair CEO Laurie Johnson, his focus became refurbishing the High Street entrance.
Ales saw it as a win-win project and his classmates agreed. After each class member submitted a project proposal, his was chosen as the one to complete.
“From a community standpoint, the economic impact is positive,” he said. “If we keep the fairgrounds looking great, we can attract new businesses into the area.”
The work includes ADA compliance tasks, signage, landscaping, fencing, slurry sealing the asphalt drive and new roofs and paint for the two ticket booths. There will also be a Leadership Plaza dedicated to the Leadership Auburn program.
“(The plaza) will have landscaping, benches to sit on and in the center a golden nugget mandarin tree, which ties in to the Mandarin Festival,” Ales said.
A new metal sign, being produced by Auburn Ironworks, will span the entrance to the fairgrounds. A second smaller sign to be located on the grassy area is being created by Uptown Signs. A third sign — an aerial view showing visitors their location within the fairgrounds, is being donated by Andregg Geomatics.
Class member and architect Cody Carpino prepared the drawings to be submitted for city permit approvals. Once landscaping approvals were in hand, the class gathered for a workday.
“We ripped out all the vines, cleaned up the garbage and started preliminary cleanup work,” Ales said. “The project has to be done by the end of June and we’ll have it done.”
Volunteers Larry Jordan and Rich Johnson donated tree-trimming services.
“All the trees are trimmed along the entire entrance,” Ales said.
He estimates the project will cost $80,000 (before donations are factored in). A significant amount of that has been raised already. A chunk of funding is coming from the 49er Lions Club’ Celebrity Chef Night. More came from a Leadership Auburn spaghetti dinner fundraiser, with food prepared and served by Auburn Masonic Temple (Eureka Lodge 16).
“We are about $20,000 away from pulling it off,” Ales said about project funding.
The class still needs the community’s help to come up with the remainder. To do that, they are selling engraved bricks that will be used in the landscaping. Each brick is $100 and the purchaser can choose to have it engraved in the family name or in memory of a loved one.
Donations of cash and materials are also welcome, as well as volunteer time to assist with the work.
“Particularly general contractors and people who have trade skills,” Ales said. “That’s something we’ll have to pay for.”
Leadership Auburn class member Frederick Smith is the fundraising committee chair for the fairgrounds entrance beautification project.
“For myself, I have thoroughly enjoyed the project to date and look forward completing it successfully in June,” Smith said in an email. “My background is IT related, so, being the fundraising committee chairman is a growth experience for me and luckily I have some folks on the team with fundraising experience helping me along. I try to set direction, get out of the way, cheerlead and support the team in any way I can. … I’m very proud of how our team shined at the (spaghetti dinner fundraiser). It was a tremendous team effort and tremendous outcome eclipsing even my wildest expectations. I’m really happy to be part of this team and giving back to our community in a tangible way, working on the fairgrounds, a neglected jewel in our midst.”
Leadership Auburn is an Auburn Chamber of Commerce program and CEO Bruce Cosgrove takes a lot of pride in the accomplishments of each class.
“We provide three projects that have been vetted in the community and present those to the class at the leadership retreat,” Cosgrove said. “After we present them, we inform the class they can choose one of those projects or they can identify some other project that the class really has a desire and interest to accomplish. That is what this class did.
“This class has been very strong, energetic and enthusiastic about doing something meaningful in the community. They … identified (the project) on their own and pursued the leadership of the fairgrounds, talked to them about their vision for the entrance and went to work lining up knowledgeable people to help them accomplish that objective. It has been really rewarding to watch this class work on this project — the planning, design, choice of materials, working with the landscape architect. They’ve been very thorough and galvanized the community around them.”
For Ales, who owns carpet and upholstery cleaning business Sierra Steam-Way and is a Realtor with Penryn-based River Ridge Realty, the Leadership Auburn class is a great way to learn about the community.
“Each month we learn about a different program and it helps us become better leaders,” he said. “I’ve met some really nice people through the class, not only people in the Leadership Auburn program, but (City Manager) Bob Richardson and (Community Development Director) Will Wong at city hall. You meet these individuals and learn not only what their jobs are about, but how we can help one another in the community. You learn about all the key players in the community and the steps you need to take to make things happen.”
Reach Gloria Young at