Visitors at the California State Fair selected Placer County to receive a coveted People’s Choice Award for having the most educational county exhibit at the 2008 fair.

Beginning Thursday, visitors at the Gold Country Fair in Auburn can discover for themselves what makes the exhibit special.

After the State Fair ended on Monday, the exhibit was moved to the Armory Building at the Gold Country Fairgrounds so it could be on display at the Auburn fair through Sunday.

The exhibit takes a whimsical look at what makes Placer County such a special place. Its centerpiece is a 26-foot-tall tree with giant roots interspersed among large boulders.

People who venture through entrances created by the tree’s roots discover a magical world of gnomes. Small in stature, the gnomes shoulder big responsibilities in their previously unseen world: creating the gold that miners find in the county’s streams and rivers, adding the pigment that gives Lake Tahoe’s waters their majestic deep-blue tint and painting mandarin oranges to give them a colorful hue that makes them hard to resist.

The highly interactive exhibit includes more than 20 moving parts and lighting special effects, sounds of gnomes talking, a slideshow and peekaboo waterfall that help bring the magic to life right before visitors’ eyes.
The theme of this year’s exhibit is: “Imagine yourself in Placer County, an enchanting place to go, know and grow.”

At an Aug.15 awards ceremony, State Fair judges gave Placer County the Best Technology Award and Best Craftsmanship Award.

On Tuesday, county officials learned that fair visitors had voted to honor Placer County for having the most educational exhibit. The award is one of three People’s Choice Awards that go to exhibits selected by fair visitors.

“Getting most educational on this exhibit is really a tribute to how the people perceived our message,” said Facility Services Deputy Director Joel Swift, the project’s coordinator.
Placer County uses its annual exhibits to promote Placer County to outsiders, and to remind residents of the county’s many attractions. The 2008 exhibit highlights the county’s recreational, arts, agricultural and historical attractions.

Each year, the fair exhibit is created by a team of volunteers headed by the Facility Services Department. This year’s effort was aided by several interns, including gnome sculptor LeeAnna Strandberg, content writer Nathalie Rayter and Colfax High School artist Rachel Fritz.

More than 30 counties had exhibits at the 2008 State Fair.

*Placer County