Bart Riebe has been attending the Nevada County Fair for 65 years. He has supported the Junior Livestock Auction by purchasing market animals for four decades. He has sponsored fundraisers, giveaways, and special events.
This year, Bart Riebe will be on the receiving end when he is inducted into the Nevada County Fair Hall of Fame.
Riebe was a unanimous choice of the Nevada County Fair Board of Directors.
“Bart is one of the most kind, generous, and thoughtful people on the planet,” said Fair CEO Patrick Eidman. “There is evidence of Bart’s love for the fairgrounds everywhere you look. Bart has left his mark here in an indelible way.”
Riebe, 72, was raised in Grass Valley.
“We didn’t have acreage so I wasn’t an ag student,” Riebe recalled. “My family was involved in auto parts, so I was a motorhead. I always had greasy fingernails.”
In addition to his own donations to the Fair and the nonprofit Fairgrounds Foundation, Riebe has raised money in other ways. He’s been known to purchase a market animal and donate it back to the foundation or other nonprofit, which then sells raffle tickets for the cut and wrapped meat to earn even more money.
Riebe has sponsored special events such as the Destruction Derby, and he’s donated equipment to the amateur drivers who compete in the derby.
“It’s always meant something to me, this great country fair with its spectacular trees and beautiful setting,” said Riebe. “Equally as impressive is the community support. The Fair is a positive, community event that brings everyone together.
“The best part for me is seeing kids win awards and learn the value of hard work. I’ve been fortunate to hire many youths who went thru local ag programs. I met them at the fair or bought their animal, and they’ve gone on to become some of my great employees.”
Riebe is an avid supporter of the Ag Mechanics auction, and has donated tool sets to the youths who create items sold at the auction. He buys other youth projects and displays them in his stores. Many people consider Riebe a champion for local youths.
“I enjoy buying what kids make or the livestock they raise,” said Riebe. “We show our appreciation and give them the praise and acclaim they deserve for the good things they do. You see the pressure these kids work under, whether it’s showing an animal or presenting their projects. They commit themselves and take it seriously. Not everyone gets a trophy. You’ve got to earn it. Whether it’s the biggest weight gain or the cleanest stall, it’s something they can be proud of.”
Riebe has also worked his share of shifts in the booths of nonprofit organizations.
“For example, I’ve enjoyed the working the 4-H pasty booth,” he said. “I’ve definitely made the rounds along Treat Street.”
Riebe’s favorite Fair memories involve the youngest exhibitors.
“My favorite part of the Fair is watching the very young 4Hers and FFA members show their livestock in showmanship for the first time, or present their projects at the auction,” said Riebe. “There is something special about a kid about three-feet tall showing a 1,300-pound steer.”
Fun contests have been a mainstay of the Riebe Auto Parts booth in the fairgrounds’ Main Street Center.
“We’ve done things like guess the number of round rope hooks stuffed into a glass cube,” Riebe said. “We also had a booth outside that supported the California State Racing Association where we offered photographs with drivers. One year we set up a theater inside a trailer at the main entrance and honored General Chuck Yeager with a brief video of his life, including breaking the sound barrier.”
Riebe’s dedication to the Fair began long before he found success as a businessman. In the early1970s, Riebe led a youth group that helped haul away trash.
“We hauled all the garbage in a truck, taking away full garbage cans and replacing them with empty ones,” said Riebe. “I was the leader of an at-risk youth group and we worked every night of the Fair. It was like an alternative to juvenile hall. We kept them from getting in trouble by keeping them busy hoisting garbage cans.”
In his typical self-deprecating manner, Riebe marvels that he was chosen to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
“I’m surprised they gave me the award, and I’m not sure I deserve it,” he said. “It’s a huge honor, but there are lots of people who do more.”
Riebe still owns and operates Riebe’s Auto Parts, his automotive parts supply chain with 22 locations across Northern California. He and his wife Shawna have six children, three of whom are between the ages 12 and 15 and are involved in youth agriculture, little league, volleyball and basketball. The family also enjoys racing go-carts at their home in rural Nevada County.
Riebe will be inducted into the Nevada County Fair Hall of Fame at the 2021 Fair’s opening ceremonies August 11. He will receive a portrait by Shaffers Originals of Grass Valley, daily admission for two for all five days of the Fair, an unlimited parking pass, and a lifetime invitation to the Fair’s opening ceremonies.
This year’s Nevada County Fair will be held August 11-15. For more information, visit www.NevadaCountyFair.com.