The Union County Fairgrounds fundraising effort received a big boost last week when the Union County Friends of 4-H Inc. announced a pledge of $30,000 toward the “Building on Tradition” project.
“Building on Tradition” is the fundraising campaign launched Feb. 1 to raise $1.5 million for a renovation project on the Union County Fairgrounds in Afton.
The renovation project includes a new 110-feet-by-240-feet building that will house the sheep and hogs and also have a restroom facility and show arena. The project also includes a 110-feet-by-160-feet building that will house the cattle.
“Friends of 4-H Inc. is pleased to be able to contribute $30,000 and support the renovation effort to this level,” Union County Friends of 4-H Inc. President Barb Wilmeth said in a press release. “A lot of effort and thought has been put into planning the new buildings, and they will serve our 4-H’ers well during the fair. The buildings’ design and flexibility also means they can be used for 4-H and community activities throughout the year and they’ll be used for many years to come.”
The $30,000 donation from Union County Friends of 4-H helped the Union County Fair Board fundraising committee achieve its first goal.
“We knew they were going to donate something, but we had no idea it was going to be that amount of money,” said Ben Adamson, fair board member. “I think they believe in what we’re doing. If you look at what they do as an organization, this is exactly the type of thing they want to promote. It’s a great deal for us and a great deal for the fair.”
Adamson said as of Wednesday, the fundraising committee has reached its first goal of raising $100,000 for the project.
That goal was set because Dekko Foundation pledged up to $500,000 toward the project.
The first stage of that pledge was a dollar for dollar match up to $100,000. Those funds raised came from local individuals, businesses and organizations.
“As long as we reach that level, they will offer a second pledge,” Adamson said. “As long as we are able to secure the rest of the funding needed, they will cap it off with another $400,000 pledge. The second stage of that can come from government entities and other sources. The idea is to provide seed money to spur interest and then cap it off.”
By reaching the first $100,000 goal, the fundraising committee will now receive a check from Dekko Foundation for an additional $100,000.
So far, funds for the “Building on Tradition” project have been raised through a kickoff dinner held in February at Three Mile Lake Lodge in Afton, a pancake supper hosted by Creston Community High School FFA and private donations.
Three-dimensional renderings of the proposed buildings were unveiled at the kickoff dinner, which raised approximately $18-20,000.
“The remainder of the funds are going to come from individuals stepping forward to say, ‘I want to be a part of this,’” Adamson said. “If people want to reach out to myself or anyone on the fundraising committee, give us a call and we’ll gladly meet with them. If we can get the vast majority of our fundraising done by the middle of May or first of June at the latest, then we will move forward and start building these things after the county fair this year. We’ll start this fall, but people need to come forward now if they want to see this thing happen.”
According to the press release from Union County Friends of 4-H Inc., the current buildings at the Union County Fairgrounds are more than 60 years old.
Aging facilities coupled with increased participation in the Union County Fair created a need for new facilities.
Currently, the buildings on the fairgrounds cannot house all of the fair animals.
According to Haley Jones, Union County youth and outreach coordinator, enrollment in 4-H has increased 35 percent since the 2011-12 4-H year, with more than 260 members to date. Sheep exhibits have jumped from 96 animals in 2012 to 149 in 2016, with rams and mature ewes kept at home until show day and sent home immediately after the show because of lack of pen space.
Meat goats increased from nine in 2012 to 48 in 2016. Swine also saw an increase from 76 animals in 2012 to 156 in 2016. Beef cattle and horse barns also fill to capacity.
“The current buildings, they served their purpose for 50 years, but they’ve become too small,” Adamson said. “Electrical service needed updated. Then space issue, because the numbers of 4-H kids in our county has grown so much, we needed more space. With the safety in mind and the functionality of the fair, that’s how we came up with these two buildings.”
Adamson said the building committee found a way to impact as many different people at the fair as possible with the two proposed buildings.
The 110-feet-by-240-feet building that will house sheep and swine includes a restroom facility, concession stand and ADA-accessible bleacher areas.
Animals will no longer have to go outside of the building, which will include an adjustable penning system. The show arena will be larger than the current show arena.
The second building, the 110-feet-by-160-feet cattle building includes a portable penning system, so that in non-fair times, the building can also be used as a covered riding arena for horses.
“We tried to think about everybody in the fair,” Adamson said. “This thing is going to benefit everybody.”