From doctor to docent: Claremonter just loves the LA County Fair
The crowds, whirling rides and colorful attractions of the LA County Fair, now in its 90th year, are certainly a lot to take in, but Claremont resident Dr. Donald Huber finds himself at home amid the commotion. It’s the excitement and fanfare that have drawn the local doctor to volunteer at the fairgrounds for over a decade.
When not practicing medicine, which he has done for the past 50 years—40 in the City of Trees—Mr. Huber enjoys spending his time volunteering, whether with the YMCA, Casa Colina or the Claremont Colleges. But one of his favorite ways of giving back is through the time and money he has spent among the frenzied festivities at the Fairplex.
“It’s about the people more than anything else,” Dr. Huber said. “I love the community.”
His beloved post as a fair volunteer began like many of his volunteer endeavors, through an opportunity provided to him by a patient. In early 2000, he was asked to join several of his patients as a board member of the Fairplex’s Millard Sheets Center for the Arts. As an art collector, Mr. Huber was happy to take up the task, surrounding himself with works of art while, as a docent, helping other fairgoers appreciate the masterpieces.
“What I like the most is what [curator] Tony Sheets has done with the space,” Mr. Huber explained. “He has put so much time and thought into each artist and project he has selected. They all tell a story.”
When not helping out as a board member or a docent, he has also contributed as an art donor himself. One of his pieces, a mammoth tusk engraved with miniature horses, was featured at the museum’s “Hoofprints: The Horse in Art, Legend and Action” exhibition in 2008. He has also played ringleader to the hundreds of school kids that funnel through the fairgrounds each year courtesy of The Learning Centers at the Fairplex. It’s a full day for students and leaders, beginning at 8:30 a.m. and including trips through a number of the fair’s exhibitions, but the kids are a breath of fresh air for Dr. Huber.
“They are the high point for me,” he said. “They get so excited over the stuff that they see, especially the dinosaur show.”
Though by now Dr. Huber is well-acquainted with the fair’s many offerings, he admits the fairgrounds still hold a bit of magic for him as well. When not volunteering at The Learning Center or Millard Sheets, he can be found spending his time at the evening concerts, taking his annual fair trip with his grandkids or adding to his art collection, bargaining with the different fair vendors.
As his students glean new information from the educational displays, Dr. Huber is also learning from the fair’s many exhibitions. He has quite the garden at his Webb Canyon home from flexing his green thumb over the years with the help of the LA County Fair’s garden show. Through another hobby picked up at the county fair, Dr. Huber also has an impressive pack of chickens, ducks, emus and alpacas to rival the fair’s barnyard showing. Dr. Huber and his animal friends have come away from the Fairplex with numerous first-prize blue ribbons in tow.
But a doctor through and through, the avid do-gooder is always happy to put his expertise to use whenever the need arises. That sometimes means helping out in a pinch when a jockey is hurt at the horse races or tending to other injuries at the Fairplex.
In recent days, Dr. Huber’s time at the fair has also been spent with eyes focused on his hometown, helping the Claremont committee prepare for Claremont Day at the Fair, taking place this year on Thursday, September 26. Festivities will begin with a 3:30 p.m. community reception at Mr. Huber’s favorite, The Millard Sheets Center for the Arts, followed by the Claremont parade through the fairgrounds at 5 p.m. and a salute to the community heroes at 5:30 p.m. Look for the good doctor atop one of the community floats, another highlight of his festival experience.
Dr. Huber has lived and worked all over the country, from Honolulu to Anchorage to San Francisco and New York, but he is quite content with his patients here in Claremont, and with a little bit of extra time to indulge in volunteer work and some fair time fun. “There’s nothing quite like it.”
Join Dr. Huber and other Claremonters on Claremont Day at the Fair with a special discount for locals. Admission for Claremont residents on Claremont Day will be reduced to $5 when you enter “Claremont” at lacountyfair.com/onlinetickets. For more information, visit www.lacountyfair.com.