October 01, 2023

Fairgrounds seating growth still in progress

Those who attend this year’s Union County Fair are expected to see the results of past efforts by the fair board.

And more is coming.

Ben Adamson representing the fair board met with Union County Board of Supervisors Monday about the fair’s budget. Adamson requested $25,000 from the supervisors, as has been the amount in previous years, but the supervisors did not make any formal action. Supervisors are researching the fiscal year 2024 budget which begins July 1.

Supervisors had previously approved $350,000 of the county’s American Rescue Plan funds to replace and expand the bleachers in the rodeo arena. The funds were part of the county’s $2.38 million from the federal government used to make up for lost revenue because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The concrete is done and the old bleachers are removed,” Adamson said. A 50x170 concrete pad is on the south side where the bleachers had been setting. Adamson said a cattle show is scheduled March 10-11 at the fairgrounds and work will continue after that show. The fair board was cautious about continuing the work during winter.

“We will start late March, early April, weather depending,” he said.

“We may have north side work in the future. The concrete is done on north side. No way we can do both sides,” Adamson said referring to the cost of material expenses.

The arena had two sections of seating; one on the north side and another on the south side. The south side held 960 people. The north side held about 300 for a total of 1,260. The original idea for the south side was to nearly double the seating. As proposed, the south side would hold about 1,800.

Last month, supervisors approved $80,000 to assist with a new, small-animal building at the fairgrounds.

Adamson said the shell of the building is planned for this year as material-related costs are still high. The building was estimated at $150,000. Adamson said that amount is now at least $175,000.

In late 2021 when the county was determining how to spend its American Rescue funds, representatives from the fairgrounds requested funds for the building. Supervisors then only approved funding for the rodeo arena seating. Supervisors approved the $80,000 only with the contingency the fair board provides the remaining amount and constructs the building.

“The goal is get shell built now and continue next year,” Adamson said.

Adamson said a fair board’s long-term plan is to expand the campground but said it is still too early to talk specific details.

Adamson said during the seven years he has been on the board there has been a cumulative $2.3 million worth of updates to the fair from new buildings, upgrades to others and electrical work throughout fair complex and campgrounds.

“At the end of this year, the fair will be debt free,” Adamson said. “None of that would be possible without support of you guys, support of local businesses and families throughout the community. The fair is important.”

Adamson said Union County has some of the best facilities in the state as improvements are annual.

He said according to the Iowa Association of Fairs, the average per county contribution to its fair is $25,417.

“It’s always good for you guys to see that. Your money is a good investment.” He also credits the board members the past decades for the fairground’s condition.

Adamon said there are 75-100 cattle, 150-200 pigs, and 75-90 goats and sheep shown at the fair.

“Small animals has really grown,” he said.

Nightly attendance at events, like the rodeo, is from 800 to 1,000, the demolition derby can have up to 2,500. The truck pull attracts about 800.

He said a free concert Friday night is planned for 2023. Last year’s show had an estimated 700 people.

“We like to do something for free and give back,” he said.

Adamson said East Union schools use fair buildings during the school year for various events and weddings at the fairgrounds are growing in numbers.

John Van Nostrand


An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.