WILMINGTON — In a Wednesday visit with county commissioners, the Senior Fair Board president mentioned a couple things that need attention and dollars at the fairgrounds, including the 4-H kitchen which wasn’t open for the 2018 fair due to the fire code.
Centrally located on the fairgrounds, the 4-H kitchen has customer windows next to a covered, open-sided pavilion where many tables are set up during the county fair. Private vendors have utilized the 4-H kitchen to prepare and sell hot meals, but this past summer the kitchen was closed.
Clinton County Senior Fair Board President Scot Gerber said Wednesday the 4-H kitchen was shut down basically because the cooking stove hood would not pass the fire code. However, the kitchen’s walk-in cooler is still in good working order, said Gerber, and he would like to replace the stove hood.
A second facility that needs attention is the Junior Fair Building (not the small Junior Fair Office) where a variety of non-livestock projects are displayed during fair week. The Junior Fair Building, in fact, is attached to the 4-H kitchen.
The ceiling and lighting in the Junior Fair Building are bad, Gerber said. He wants to upgrade the lighting to more energy-efficient LED lights.
The fair board president told commissioners someone has come forward and said there may be options where they might be able to help with some of the funding to fix the 4-H kitchen.
Another potential fairgrounds project would involve lighting the race track all the way around. Currently, it’s lit only on the track’s front side near the grandstand.
“They told me that at one time the race track was lighted all the way around,” said Gerber.
There are aluminum poles sitting in a barn that were never utilized, and recently a few of them were used along the driveway at the new South Nelson Avenue fairgrounds entrance, he added.
Lighting the track in its entirety rather than one side would allow for harness racing at night, said Gerber.
In something of a comeback, harness racing has begun to draw more people, he said. After having one day of harness racing for years at the Clinton County Fair, the last three years the schedule has gone back to two days of racing.
Clinton County Commissioners President Patrick Haley said it would be a good idea to find out why the lighting was taken out around the track, although the presumption is it was due at least partly to a decline of interest in the sport.
After discussing the possible facility improvements, Gerber said the fair board is working on developing partnerships. The Clinton County Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) has contacted the fair board and there’s a possibility the county CVB will become involved with the fair. Gerber noted the CVB helped with this past summer’s popular Jeep Jam event held at the fairgrounds.
For one thing, he said, perhaps the CVB could assist with some of the entertainment at the fairgrounds.
Though Gerber described his next idea as being “down the road” and longer-term, he thinks a paid fair manager for say 20 to 30 hours per week could be a good idea, and could even strengthen finances.
“I think they [a fair manager] could increase revenues by better sales, better marketing, getting it out there, meeting with local business owners. They would have time to do that,” said Gerber.
Due to people’s busy lives, it gets tougher every year to secure volunteers for fairgrounds-related preparation and projects, he said.
Utilizing fairgrounds buildings for winter storage has been a major boost for the fair board (Clinton County Agricultural Society), said the president.
“This is the first year we had to turn people away [for winter storage, due to no more available space],” said Gerber.
Commissioners are in the process of working out the county’s 2019 General Fund budget appropriations, and made no funding decisions Wednesday on Gerber’s fairgrounds suggestions.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.