It might be difficult to find a family with closer ties to the Merced County Spring Fair than the O'Banion family of Dos Palos.
The Merced County Spring Fair's board of directors selected Jerry and Dollie O'Banion as the grand marshals for the 2013 fair. Jerry's father, Emory, twice served as a grand marshal and the fairgrounds' main exhibit building carries the O'Banion name.
"I think it's an honor to be chosen by the board of directors," Jerry O'Banion, 66, said. "Having my father as also a grand marshal at the parade and fair, it's just a great honor."
Their selection comes after years of service and involvement with the Merced County Spring Fair, often called the "May Day Fair." The board takes into consideration community spirit, residency and support of the fair's mission when choosing the title.
The O'Banions, who have been married for 45 years, live in Dos Palos on the family farm. He has been a Merced County supervisor for 22 years and is a partner with his brother and nephew in a diversified row crop and dairy operation. Dollie O'Banion, 64, is retired from teaching English at Dos Palos High School.
The couple would often get together for dates as teenagers at the fair.
"The '60s are probably our best memories; the most enjoyable," he said.
The couple's three children reside in Dos Palos, and son Jeremy O'Banion sits on the fair's board of directors.
Born and raised in Dos Palos, Jerry O'Banion showed Hereford cattle at the fair in 4-H and FFA divisions. He showed the grand champion market steer at the 1965 Merced County Spring Fair and remembers receiving 90 cents a pound for the animal.
"It's a great memory," he said. "It was actually my last year of showing."
He also worked in the fair's livestock department in the late 1960s.
Dollie, who was born in Los Banos, lived in Fresno with husband Jerry for the first ten years of their marriage. Dollie said the couple hasn't missed a fair since high school, including their years in Fresno.
"It's the heart and soul of Los Banos and the surrounding communities," she said. "Everybody knows the May Day Fair, everybody comes to the May Day Fair."
She said she has fond memories of visiting the fair and its carnival as a teenager, and now watches her grandchildren do the same. She said the grandchildren have particularly enjoyed the Little Hands Exhibit.
"It's a wonderful tool to teach kids about agriculture," she said.
Jerry O'Banion attended Fresno State where he received a degree in Vocational Agriculture and he was 4-H Youth Advisor for Fresno County from 1969-73. After his father died in 1973, the O'Banions returned to Dos Palos to help keep the farm operating.
Jerry O'Banion served as mayor of Dos Palos from 1987 until 1990 when he was elected as a Merced County supervisor. His father was also a supervisor.
The O'Banion's three children also participated in the Spring Fair, showing dairy heifers, a lamb and beef cattle. This year the next generation will enter the show ring as two granddaughters will be showing market hogs.
The O'Banions will be introduced as grand marshals at the annual kickoff dinner April 13.
Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanos
Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanos enterprise.com.