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Community pride

Switzerland County fairgrounds
updates with focus on community

By Konnie McCollum
Staff Writer

VEVAY, Ind. (June 2007) – For many Indiana small towns and rural communities, the county fairgrounds play an integral role in social events, and one of the biggest events in those communities is the 4-H Fair. That is the situation in Switzerland County, Ind., which has recently spent close to $1 million in renovations and upgrades for its county fairgrounds.
“For many years, we existed without any money and did the best we could with the deteriorating conditions of our buildings,” said Switzerland County Fair Board President Lane Armstrong. “Prior to the renovations, everything was run down and about to fall down.”
Former Fair Board Treasurer Sherry Armstrong said the project started back in 2000 when the board received close to $400,000 in casino money from Belterra Casino, Resort & Spa, which is located in the county.
She said community leaders were thrilled with the opportunity to do something about the conditions of the fairgrounds because they understood the importance of 4-H and other organizations which use those buildings and grounds.
“We wanted to find a way to keep our kids involved and give them something to be proud of,” she said. Renovating the fairgrounds and upgrading for the future was one way to do that.
Angie Satterfield, Fair Board member and project coordinator for tourism in Switzerland County, said the surveys were sent out to community leaders and past and present Fair Board members asking for their input on what needed to be done.
“Everyone was excited about this and we got some great ideas,” she said.
The project was broken down into four phases. In the first phase, immediate issues such as the drainage problem at the fairgrounds and a fence around the perimeter were addressed. Approximately $160,000 was spent in the first phase putting in fencing, a new commercial building, a sheep barn and shelter house, restrooms and show ring bleachers.
In the meantime, the fair board realized that more funding would be needed to complete every aspect of the project. “As the initial funding dwindled, we started applying for small local grants, and then as the momentum increased with the project, we began writing grant proposals for much larger grants,” said Satterfield. “Everybody wants to jump on a winning horse, and people recognized the value of what we were doing.”
Also, the board applied for a percentage of riverboat money. As organizations saw the success of the fairgrounds project, money started coming in, including a $162,000 Ogle Foundation grant for a new cattle and swine barn.
Other organizations who have given grants include the County Council, County Trustees, and the Community Foundations in the county.
“The County Commissioners granted us close to $80,000 for parking lot improvements, upgrades and blacktopping because they like what they were seeing us do,” she said.
The fair board now has moneys put aside for future repair and maintenance, as well as 4-H scholarships for graduates and scholarship funds for every child who wants to attend 4-H camp. “We now can afford to pay up to 75 percent of the fees to send local kids to 4-H camp,” she said.
A new exhibit hall and storage building is planned for after the Switzerland County 4-H Fair this summer, which is always held the week of July 4.
For any other community looking to take on this kind of project, Satterfield suggested “keep an open mind” and look for available local funds. An example of how to proceed without money would be to keep track of volunteer hours, which can be used as “in kind” matches for grants that require matching funds.

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