Tri-County Fair & Event Center
Discovering the heart of Bishop and the Eastern Sierra
Are you a lover of history and community events? Then you’ll be thrilled to discover the Tri-County Fair & Event Center in Bishop, California. This venue has been a cornerstone of the Bishop community for over 70 years and has hosted some of the most beloved events in the area, including the famous Bishop Mule Days celebration and the annual Tri-County Fair.
Guests of our characteristically western American town are touched by the laid-back feel and genuinely warm welcome that greets them when they visit. Visitors to the Fair are delighted by the old-world charm of this traditional regional fair, where locals compete in a wide variety of categories like cupcake decorating, photography, flower arranging, quilting, pie making, BBQ and chili cookoffs and many more.
Bishop Mule Days is a celebration of all things mule-related, including mule shows, pack trips, and even a mule parade. The event draws visitors from all over the country and has become a beloved tradition in the Bishop community.
During the pandemic of 2020 local entrepreneurs and community members collaborated to create the Fair’s Drive-In and Tailgate Entertainment venue. A coveted industry award, The Merrill Award, presented by the Western Fairs Association (WFA) was awarded to the Tri-County Fair for its leadership and commitment to community excellence. This unique outdoor space, that was built using recycled materials, continues to the serve the community through tailgate parties, movie screenings, and private events.
An incredible feature of the Tri-County Fair and Event Center is the opportunity to camp in the middle of town. In the smallest tent or biggest RV, campers can still have space and privacy and an amazing view; all within walking distance from great restaurants, shopping, and friendly small-town services. Click the CAMPING toggle below to find out more.
The Tri-County Fair and Event Center is managed by the 18th District Agricultural Association, a State Agency part of the California Department of Food and Agriculture and Division of Fairs & Expositions. It’s more than just a venue. It’s a vital part of the Bishop community! In addition to hosting wonderful events that bring people together and showcase local talent, the center also provides a source of economic activity for the area. Local businesses benefit from increased traffic during events, and the center employs many people throughout the year.
Beyond the economic benefits, the Tri-County Fair & Event Center also serves as a gathering place for the community. From birthday parties to weddings to community meetings, the fairgrounds are a versatile space that can be used for a wide range of events. It’s no wonder that the venue has become such an integral part of the Bishop community over the years.
Let’s explore the importance of this venue in the Bishop community and look at the exciting events you can enjoy during a visit, plus everything the center has to offer.
Click on the toggles below for more detailed information.
Our name says it all. The Tri-County Fair is a traditional western American fair serving three counties in California—Inyo, Mono, and Alpine. Billed as the “Best Four Days of Summer” it’s packed with contests, a carnival, horse shows and western rodeo, country music concert, Main St. Parade, Demolition Derby—the locals’ favorite, and so much more. It all happens every Labor Day Weekend in Bishop.
Set in downtown Bishop surrounded by the stunning landscape of Bishop’s big backyard where the Sierra Nevada to the west and the White and Inyo mountains to the east rise to over 14,000-ft on either side of the valley floor. The Tri-County Fair is an enchanting showcase of this remote region of eastern California and its characteristic old-world charm.
The fair brings locals together from across the region, covering a geographic area of over 14,000 square miles (larger than some U.S. states) with a total population of just less than 34,000. Fair contestants compete in a wide variety of crafts and talents like photography, painting, flower arranging, quilting, cupcake decorating, pie making, BBQ and chili cookoffs, clothing and textiles, floriculture, agriculture, farming, and more.
The grandstand is the center of live shows that includes three-days of equestrian shows and rodeo, music concerts, livestock shows, stunt shows, and the high-octane Demolition Derby. The latter is a thrilling race of souped-up cars with drivers in crazy costumes whose sole aim is to destroy their competition; it’s fast, furious, and loads of fun.
All this is centered around a lively carnival with exciting rides, clown and magic shows, merchandise vendors, food and beverage stalls, artisan demonstrations, and street performers.
The fair extends off the grounds and into town where an Art and Craft Fair is held in the heart of Bishop at the Bishop City Park. It provides an avenue for the creativity and talents of artists and artisans from the local community and further afield to show their work and earn an income. It’s a great place to mingle and shop for unique and personalized crafts and gifts.
Each day of the Fair is a celebration of the region’s western American heritage. Thursday evening sets the tone with a lively Latino music concert featuring well-known artists. Friday night kicks it up with feats of skill and bravery in an All-American Western Rodeo. The Saturday morning Parade is a classic taste of rural Americana. It features school marching bands and cheerleaders, local celebrities, horse- and mule‑drawn wagons, the Bishop Volunteer Fire Department engines and firefighters, cars, trucks, and community members celebrating the life and times of rural California. The fair ends with a bang on Sunday night when the last cars and trucks running in each heat of the Demolition Derby take a well-deserved victory lap.
The Fair draws over 25,000 visitors from around the state and is growing in popularity. It offers an authentic taste of western America in a rural setting that has its roots in pioneering adventure.
The landscape is vast, untamed, and beautiful. The Fair is traditional, exciting, and educational.
“The importance of California’s agriculture is showcased in a variety of ways during the annual fairs. One of the most prominent ways is through exhibits. Agricultural exhibits not only entertain the public but also share information about an industry that is a vital part of the state but may be unfamiliar to them. Exhibits provide a sense of diversity while reminding fairgoers of the connections they share with others in the community. That is what makes our fairs’ community so special!” ~ Karen Ross, Secretary, California Department of Food & Agriculture.
The Tri-County Fairgrounds was established in 1946 and has been a hub of community activity ever since. Originally intended to host a single annual fair, the venue quickly became a popular destination for a wide range of events and gatherings. Today, the Tri-County Fair & Event Center spans 37 acres and offers a variety of indoor and outdoor spaces for events of all sizes.
Located in the heart of Bishop the facility boasts an impressive variety of structures and buildings that can be set up for events from large-scale crowd events to intimate private gatherings.
Arena & Grandstand
The arena and grandstand are the focal point for big events like the Fair and Mule Days and the recently established annual Summer Concert Series. The grandstand has capacity for 1,500 spectators and is designed for events like music concerts, horse and livestock shows, sporting events, dirt track racing, rallies, and other stadium-style events. An announcer’s booth is set apart from the grandstand, and public grandstand access is separate from participants arena access—as and when needed. Large stadium lighting makes this venue usable both day and night.
Buildings & Structures
Six well-appointed buildings can host balls, dinners, conferences, flower shows, film festivals, weddings, and a diverse array of public and private events.
- The Charles Brown Auditorium is one of the largest and most versatile indoor structures and can hold up to 1,700 persons standing or 933 seated within its space measuring 200-ft x 70-ft. Its high ceiling makes it perfect for erecting large indoor structures such as a full-size movie screen. The adjacent kitchen with service counter has space for large-scale banquet catering.
- The newest building, the Tallman Pavilion, has capacity for 200 standing or 125 seated within its 4,600 sq. ft. space. It has a large, modern commercial grade kitchen for food preparation and spacious restrooms with showers.
- The Heritage Arts Building (formerly the Home Economics Building) and the Floriculture Building each seat 373 and accommodate 700 standing. Both are 120-ft x 50’ in size. Kitchen and restroom facilities are available here too.
- The Douglas Robinson building has capacity for 1,700 standing and 933 seated within its 200-ft x 70-ft. size. It includes a large permanent display area in the center of the hall.
- The Patio Building is a more intimate facility with seating for 75 and space for 100 standing within its 30-ft x 50-ft size. A refrigerator and sink are available for catering to be brought in from off-site.
A few smaller enclosed structures provide additional options for secure bar service, storage, event registration, and display areas. The nearby food alley has ample space for many food vendors and covered seating for patrons.
Stage & Screen
The Coso Energy Stage, a stand-alone, covered stage, fronted by a large grassy area is perfect for more intimate music concerts, theatrical performances, dances, solo shows, and private parties. It hosts a great line-up of bands, solo artists, and local talent during the major weekend events and has been the focal point for fundraisers, kids’ shows, product launches and more.
And now! There’s the new Fair’s Drive-In and Tailgate Entertainment venue. This labor of love by community members during the Pandemic created a safe space for people to enjoy a night out, watch a movie, and still feel connected during a difficult time. It now has pride of place in the community and continues to be a unique and fun experience for everyone.
Stalls & Pasture
The rural western nature of this venue means that stables and livestock stalls are also available for events that feature animals. Are you traveling with horses or livestock? Rent stalls and/or pasture overnight or per month. Call the Center at (760) 873-3580 to discuss your specific needs. Our small-town country hospitality means we’ll do our best to help you out.
Rentals & Rates
There are options for indoor, outdoor, and flexible indoor/outdoor settings to get just the right feel for a special event. All facilities are available to rent for public and private events. Click on THE EVENTS toggle below to find out about all the fun things to do at the Fairgrounds. Or get some great ideas here for hosting your event in the heart of beautiful Bishop. Have a look at the facility rental and rates here.
The Event Center is home to many annual and periodic events hosted by the center and by organizations from around the region and the country. In addition to these annual and often long-standing events listed below, there are many other educational and entertaining one-off events like Learn How To Pack a Mule by the Backcountry Horsemen of California, the Tool Show by Steve’s Auto and Napa Tools, Falconry by the California Hawking Club, and the more frivolous Girls Night Out featuring an all-male dance revue.
The events are local, regional, and national and as diverse as the Eastern Sierra community.
Mule Days Celebration
Mule Days is a big and beloved event held at the Tri-County Fair and Event Center. For five days, every Memorial Day weekend, more than 30,000 fans from around the country (and the world) converge on Bishop for this colorful and fun festival. Over 700 mules with their trainers, riders, and packers compete in mule shows that include equestrian disciplines such as: Western, English, youth, barrel racing, gymkhana, packing, shoeing, chariot racing, team roping and driving. The Mule Days motto is, “Anything a good horse can do, a good mule can do better.”
Among the many highlights of the event are the Country Music concert with a star headliner; the Saturday morning parade along Main Street, said to be the country’s longest non-motorized parade; an arts and crafts fair in the Bishop City Park all weekend; Mule Shows and the 20-Mule Team Demo; and more country music, country dances, barbeques, street vendors, food, and tons of fun.
California High School Rodeo Association (CHSRA)
Rodeo is synonymous with the American West! And while rodeos during the Fair and Mule Days attract participants of all ages in a variety of categories—this rodeo is the cream of California’s High School rodeo talent. Bishop has been the preferred venue for the CHSRA State Finals for almost 20-years. The local districts also compete here in regional showdowns and the best of best come to Bishop every year in June from districts across California to vie for the State Championships.
It’s a high-stakes, adrenaline-filled event that’s open to the public. Have a look at all the details here.
Summer Concert Series
Summer starts early with a series of super summer concerts featuring chart-topping artists, food trucks, spirits tasting, craft beer, margaritas, festival-style seating, and a whole lot more. It’s billed as, “Your music experience under the Milky Way.” Look at our Night Sky page here to find out why.
If it’s stars you’re after you’ve come to the right place; Country Music Stars, Rock Stars, Tribute Bands, Pop Artists, and Latin American idols grace our stage under the stars.
Choo Choo Swap Meet
It’s the biggest bi-annual yard sale in the Eastern Sierra. Held on the first Saturday every May and October the Choo Choo Swap Meet is the largest fundraiser for the Laws Railroad Museum and Historical Site. It’s a community favorite and folks come from far and wide to browse and buy. For some it’s a chance to clear out garages, sell collections, or trade something old for something new. For others it’s an opportunity to snap up bargains and hunt for treasures.
Junior Livestock Show & Auction
A long-standing American farming tradition is the training and experience of raising livestock for market and/or labor by aspiring young farmers. Every year in rural communities around the country youngsters compete for prizes and accolades in a variety of categories such as cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, turkeys, and rabbits among others for market. Horses and other equines are bred and reared for farm work or other activities as suits the breed. These aspiring young farmers spend countless hours caring, raising, and learning about their animals with limited adult supervision and are the future farmers of America.
Bishop’s Junior Livestock Show & Auction is well supported by the local community and eagerly awaited each year. It is a lively event at The Fairgrounds held under the auspices of California Department of Food & Agriculture Fairs & Expositions Branch.
The arena is well suited to motorcycle racing on dirt tracks and courses. It has been the venue for motocross racing in years past and Flat Track Motorcycle Racing has recently been introduced at the Fairgrounds. Beyond the Event Center more motorcycle action takes place on the roads, tracks, and trails of the Eastern Sierra. The Ventura Motorcycle Club Dual Sport event is held here annually and the club makes use of facilities at the fairgrounds for registration, reporting, and ceremonies.
Blake Jones Trout Derby
The annual Blake Jones Trout Derby is one of the largest single day fishing events in California. This family-oriented event is held at Pleasant Valley Reservoir, six miles north of Bishop, where fishing is allowed in the reservoir and along a stretch of the lower Owens River – all year long.
The Derby is an angler’s dream event where fishing comes first! And a chance to win fantastic prizes in the “Blind Bogey” format. Everyone has a chance to win some of the great cash and gear prizes on offer valued at over $10,000.
It started as annual fishing derby in 1968 and was named the Blake Jones Trout Derby in 1988 in honor of one of the region’s greatest fishing legends, Blake Jones. He was the inventor of a form of cheese bait that revolutionized the fishing industry. His enthusiasm for fishing was infectious and he helped many people learn to fish and improve their skills. Jones had extensive experience and in-depth knowledge of fishing the waters of this region and helped spawn the local fishing tourism industry.
Youth Hockey League
Kids from age 4-18 compete in the Sierra Roller Hockey League each year from November through February in the Charles Brown Auditorium. It starts with a draft and ends with playoffs that send the nerves into overtime! An exciting family fun sport. Get more details here.
Flash Foxy Women’s Climbing Festival
It began in Bishop as a way to celebrate women and rock climbing. The inaugural Flash Foxy Women’s Climbing Festival in 2016 was a resounding success and the event has grown and adapted to include gender non-conforming folks. The festival makes the Tri-County Fair and Event Center its headquarters and utilizes other venues in town for other fun activities. The primary activity, of course, is rock climbing. Climbers, from beginners to experts, participate in clinics, demonstrations, and a lot of seriously fun climbing in Bishop’s big backyard—which is known worldwide as a world-class climbing region.
Eastern Sierra Pride Festival
The first annual Eastern Sierra Pride Festival in 2022 drew an impressive crowd of Bishop and Eastern Sierra locals to a sequin-studded event of music, dancing, and Drag shows. The two-day event made use of many facilities at the Fairgrounds including the Drive In screen and stage. The event marked the launch of Eastern Sierra Pride, a local non-profit whose mission is, “[T]o cultivate an Eastern Sierra where 2SLGBTQIAP+ people are celebrated, embraced, and supported.”
In addition to events hosted by the Tri-County Fair and Event Center and other organizations that are open to the public, the center is a popular venue for many private events. Members of the community rent buildings, spaces, and support structures as needs for weddings, quinceañeras, birthday parties, celebrations of life, and many other private functions.
The facility is also well used for private commercial and business functions like product launches, meetings, conferences, screenings, and team building. The latter always generates great reviews for the outdoor experiences that enhance team building exercises that include activities like guided rock climbing, pack mule trips, fishing, hiking, photography and much more.
Emergencies & Evacuations
In the event of a community emergency such as earthquake, fire, flood, snow, or weather-related road closures, the buildings at the Fairgrounds are set up to shelter displaced or stranded persons in a clean, safe, and monitored environment. Many agencies such as the Red Cross, County Sherriff, Search and Rescue, and others participate in managing the shelter depending on the type of emergency. The facility was a used during the Covid-19 Pandemic for safe and effective community COVID testing and vaccination.
Camp in town
This multi-use facility is the one place where a campsite in the heart of the city still offers ample space and an unobstructed view of the mountains. And pets and livestock are welcome. Walk to restaurants, shopping, the movies, and more from the flap of your tent or door of your RV. Sites are suitable for a range of camping styles from a small tent to a large RV with more than enough space for privacy and stunning views of our big backyard.
42 Spaces have full hookups (water, electricity, sewer) and over 135 spaces have partial hookups (water and electricity – no sewer). All have access to our onsite bathrooms and showers. Some spaces are suitable for group camping and others are pull-through sites for larger RV rigs. It’s pet friendly and livestock can be accommodated in box stall or open corrals for an additional fee. Complimentary WiFi is available throughout the campground.
Store where you play
Store your RV and/or boat where you go to get away from it all. RV and boat storage at the Tri-County Fair and Event Center, now offered year-round, is the best way to create your perfect staycation or vacation in the Owens Valley or mountain canyons of the Eastern Sierra. Arrive in Bishop by car or plane, pull your RV out of storage, and camp right here at the fairgrounds or book a site in a campground anywhere from Death Valley to Yosemite Valley. There’s an infinite amount of adventure and exploration to be had within our greater big backyard. Be sure to check seasonal closures and book well in advance for high visitation destinations.
Finally, check the Tri-County Fair and Event Center website for information on upcoming events and camping options. The fairgrounds can get crowded during major events, so it’s always a good idea to book your camping spot in advance.
Fly to Bishop during summer and winter with the newly established commercial service offering direct flights from San Francisco. These seasonal flights connect Bishop to the world and open up a world of adventure for visitors to the Eastern Sierra. Our beautiful big backyard just got bigger as this seasonal service makes access to two of our country’s most beautiful National Parks, Death Valley and Yosemite, easier and quicker. A bus service (see ESTA below), car rental agencies, taxis, and shuttle services provide onward transport from the airport to the Fairgrounds and many destinations in Bishop, Mammoth Lakes, and towns up and down US Highway 395. After a short flight of less than an hour, you could be hiking, fishing, climbing, biking, and sightseeing in minutes.
Bishop Airport, located 2-miles from town, has a long history of service to private pilots, charter companies, medical evac operations, search and rescue, firefighting, and military training and refueling. Read about the history of the airport here.
Getting to Bishop by car from the major centers of San Francisco, Los Angles, Las Vegas, and Reno is pretty much a tank of gas away; the furthest is San Francisco at about 350-miles away to the closest being Reno at 200-miles away. All roads lead to US-395 that is the main highway that bisects the Owens Valley and runs at the base of the Sierra Nevada for over 500-miles from Mojave, CA to the Oregon state line. It is one of the most scenic drives in the state and perhaps the country. Winter travel can be interrupted by road closures due to snowfall and whiteout conditions; summer can present extremely hot conditions at lower elevations. Always carry emergency supplies such as extra food and water, blankets, jackets, hats, shoes, and sunscreen. Keep your vehicle in good condition for travel in remote areas.
When you arrive in Bishop sure to follow these directions below.
It’s easy and plenty of parking is available. A basic search for the Tri-County Fairgrounds on your GPS or Google mapping may not give you accurate directions. The physical address is 1234 Sierra St., so be sure to enter that into your device or just follow these directions as you cruise into town on US395 / N. Main St. Take care to look for these landmarks on the corner of Sierra Street:
- from the north look for Starbucks on your right and turn right onto Sierra St.,
- from the south look for Aaron Schat’s Roadhouse on your left and turn left onto Sierra St.,
then, in 1,000-feet, look for the Tri-County Fair gateway and turn right onto Fair Street and into the fairgrounds.
Parking is well demarcated and during events volunteers will help usher you to a suitable spot.
Camp at the Fairgrounds or check into one of the many lodgings in Bishop and surrounds. There are modern hotels and simple motels, quaint bed and breakfasts and well-appointed Airbnbs; check into a rustic mountain cabin or have a holiday at a full-service resort. Many are within walking distance from the Tri-County Fair and Event Center.
The regional bus service, Eastern Sierra Transit Authority (ESTA), is based at Bishop Airport and the dial-a-ride program offers residents and visitors inexpensive and convenient transportation in and around town. ESTA also provides regional town-to-town shuttle routes with regular trips between Bishop and Mammoth Lakes.
Be sure to pack for all types of weather. The Eastern Sierra is known for its unpredictable weather patterns. Plus, our topographically diverse landscape means that it can be hot and dry at lower elevations and cold and wet at higher elevations all on the same day. It’s always a good idea to pack layers and be prepared for anything, whatever time of year you choose to visit.
Contact us at the Bishop Visitor Center at (760) 873-8405 or send us an email and let us help you plan the best experiences ever.
Links & Things
One of the best things about the Tri-County Fair & Event Center is that there’s always something going on. The Eastern Sierra, Bishop, and the Fairgrounds are all family and pet friendly destinations with excellent accessibility in many places throughout the region. Take a look at this blog post about accessible place to go and things to do. Make sure to check on suitability for children and pets for specific events as each event will establish its own rules and regulations.
Whether you’re a fan of music, sports, or food, you’re sure to find an event that suits your interests. Follow the links below and write to us and let us help you with your vacation ideas and plans.
Helpful links below and click to download the handy map here.
Look!!! Let’s plan a Death Valley Trip. Ask about including a visit from Bishop.
And don’t forget to check out all our great lodging options.
Read and study these pages, download the brochures and maps, and plan a trip to Bishop and the Eastern Sierra. Call us: (760) 873-8405, or email us: and let us help you choose your future adventure. We look forward to meeting you then!
Have a look at these related blogs for more great info on visiting here
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Mule Days & Kids
About the Author: Gigi de Jong
Gigi is “crazy mad in love with Bishop.” Since moving here in 2006 she has made it her mission to participate in as many of the outdoor activities as possible. She learned to snowboard, improved upon her very average climbing skills, took long hikes, has driven up and down innumerable mountain roads and 4×4 tracks, cycled and occasionally tumbled down mountain bike trails, taken to the roads on a bicycle or motorcycle – sometimes for fun and sometimes to commute, and successfully completed her first attempt at a triathlon. She spent 10 months touring the western US and Canada on a bicycle and after 4,000 plus miles returned to Bishop – for the beauty of the place and the spirit of the community. “My soul belongs here,” she says.