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FGMS honors heroes in return to county fair

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

The San Diego County Fair's Gem, Mineral, and Jewelry exhibit returned for this year, which meant that the Fallbrook Gem and Mineral Society booth also returned to the county fair.

The theme of this year's fair was Heroes Reunite, which paid tribute both to superheroes and to actual first responders and other community heroes. The FGMS booth recognized local heroes and the county fair, which is normally the largest fundraising activity for the Fallbrook Gem and Mineral Society, saw the sale of more than 4,000 FGMS grab bags as well as other items sold at the booth.

The fair itself lasted 21 days. Some of the FGMS volunteers staffed the booth while others were involved in setup, inventory processing and pricing, and cleaning. An estimated 90 volunteers assisted with the FGMS booth.

"It was quite a tremendous effort," said FGMS President Mary Fong Walker.

Not all of the volunteers are Fallbrook residents. "We pulled in people from all over the San Diego area to help," Walker said. "They did a tremendous job."

Walker noted that high gas prices didn't deter volunteers from making the trip from Fallbrook or elsewhere for the unpaid activity.

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak canceling the 2020 county fair, the planned theme was Heroes Unite, which recognized both superheroes and community heroes. The 2020 market livestock show and auction were virtual, and the rest of the fair did not take place at all. The 2021 county fair had the theme Home Grown Fun and was extremely limited in its activities with no competitive exhibits and thus no Gem, Mineral, and Jewelry exhibit booths.

Amenities at the 2022 fair did not return to the 2019 level, but the competitive exhibits were held. Elizabeth Cheathem volunteered to create the booth display. Cheathem's original plan was to utilize the gemstones associated with superheroes, and she had already mapped out her planned display. Gem, Mineral, and Jewelry exhibit coordinator Anne Schafer asked if FGMS could honor local heroes instead.

"I had a very short notice of doing this. We were going to go in a whole different direction," Cheathem said.

Cheatham first identified Fallbrook or other North County organizations worthy of local hero status. "In two weeks I contacted all those organizations," she said.

The local heroes were placed into eight categories. The medical services category had photos of the Fallbrook Regional Healthcare District, Tri-City Medical Center, and the Walgreens pharmacy in Fallbrook. The Fallbrook Sheriff's substation and a Sheriff's Department helicopter comprised the law enforcement category. North County Fire Protection District firefighters and paramedics and an ambulance funded by the healthcare district and staffed by the fire department were used for the fire and emergency medical services category.

The Boys and Girls Club of North County provided virtual learning and child care for essential workers during the coronavirus epidemic, so those photos were in the children and family services section. The food distribution category had both the Fallbrook Food Pantry and Fallbrook High School's food services team. The partnership of the Foundation for Senior Services and Major Market in providing free grocery delivery service to senior citizens was recognized in the senior services category.

The dining services category captured both restaurant delivery services and restaurants providing outside and drive-through services. The Fallbrook post office branch and private parcel services were honored in the delivery services area for ensuring access to goods and keeping citizens connected with each other in the absence of personal contact.

"That was our contribution to the theme of the fair for this year," Walker said. "Our superheroes are citizens of the community."

In addition to seeking photos from the agencies and businesses, Cheathem also worked with Fallbrook/Bonsall Village News Associate Editor Lucette Moramarco on using newspaper photos. Cheathem also contacted the agencies and businesses to let them know that photos of specific people as well as entities would be displayed at the county fair.

"She did a tremendous job of pulling together and getting authorization," Walker said.

"I just got busy and turned on my photo printer and just created," Cheathem said.

A handful of volunteers helped Cheathem set up the display prior to the first day of the fair.

"People loved it," Walker said.

"It turned out great," Cheathem said. "Superheroes in real life are better than all that razzmatazz fantasy stuff."

The grab bags, which sold for $3 apiece, consisted of five identified mineral or fossil specimens along with tumbled stones. The funds raised by the county fair booth help offset the FGMS annual operating costs and also allow for a museum with no admission charge.


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