Long-Awaited Expansion

Building projects under way
at Jefferson County Fairgrounds

The board plans additional
upgrades in the coming years

By Tess Worrell
Contributing Writer

(April 2012) – If asked to name the highlight event of the summer, many Jefferson County residents would say the 4-H fair. The Jefferson County Fair and 4-H Program enjoys a state-wide reputation as one of the most successful county fairs – especially when it comes to community involvement.
While other counties struggle to find volunteers or to fund programs, Jefferson County enjoys wide volunteer support and donations of both physical work and money. With the demand for facilities outgrowing the available space, the fair board last year launched a fundraising drive to raise money to build new structures at the fairgrounds.

Farigrounds Construction

File photo by Lela Bradshaw

Construction began last year
on new buildings at the Jefferson
County, Ind., Fairgrounds.

“We feel this building project will assure the sustainability of the 4-H programs and the annual county fair by addressing key issues facing our organization today,” said Scott Hubbard, Jefferson County 4-H Fair Board president.
This spring the fair board will finalize construction on Merchants Building 1 and begin construction on Merchants Building 2. The new facilities will offer more space and comfort for vendors during the fair as well as updated facilities for community use the rest of the year. Board members are hoping the project will be finished by fair time in early July.
In the early years, 4-H participants exhibited projects at schools and held a camp at Hanover College Campus. In 1951, Emerson Harrell guided the fair board to purchase the current fairground’s property for only $5,000. Community members chipped in money and labor to construct the current buildings. Though the buildings have served well, the cost of maintenance overwhelms current budgets.
Hubbard and his board developed a plan for “replacing the current buildings with newer versions that will be easier to maintain, provide us with the ability to improve the fair week experience, and most importantly allow us to use the facilities in the off-season to generate new programs and income.”
The plan set replacing Merchant Buildings 1 and 2 as the first priorities. In future years, the board will move to renovate the Community Building, the Midway restrooms, the show arena roof, and finally replace the exhibit hall. Total cost for the Capital Improvement Projects will be $235,000.
Lonnie Mason, Jefferson County Extension Educator, says the construction for Merchant Building 1 is nearly complete. The new building features higher ceilings complete with fans, which meant the building was about 15 degrees cooler than the older version last summer – a welcome relief for vendors and visitors alike at fair time.
More than 30,000 people attend the fair each summer. Though they come to sample a fish sandwich or blueberry doughnut, ride the Midway, or visit with neighbors – the prime attraction remains the 4-H projects. More than 500 youths and 100 adult volunteers participate and exhibit projects each year.
Hubbard notes that the projects not only teach students to care for a lamb or build an electric circuit board, they also build life skills, such as planning, hard work, dependability, sportsmanship and financial management.
Vendors also use fair week to educate the public regarding their services and products. Non-profit organizations likewise take advantage of the opportunity to raise funds at during fair week for projects throughout the year. New, larger facilities will enable all these opportunities to expand. More space will make the facilities more user friendly which Hubbard hopes will lead to increased attendance at all events.
Hubbard also hopes the facilities will draw more outside events. Last year, the fairgrounds played host to family graduation parties, auctions, corporate picnics and school fairs. The fairgrounds served as a polling station, played host to Ag Day for local schools and held bluegrass music festivals each month.
As the board updates its facilities, board members say they hope to expand to more events year-round to build revenue for future fair projects. The unheated buildings will offer space for gatherings from early spring through the fall. Though spring has just begun, Hubbard said he already looks forward to fair time and all the opportunities building through the construction at the fairgrounds.

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