By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
Big things are happening at the Madison County Fairgrounds.
In the first push for major improvements in many, many years, the Junior Fair Livestock Sale Committee is launching an annual building and infrastructure fundraising campaign.
The kickoff is set for 3 to 8 p.m. Oct. 20 at the fairgrounds. Tim Omark will perform, Buckeye BBQ will provide food, children’s activities are planned, and organizers will outline their goals. Admission is free.
The committee’s first goal is to construct a new arena and general purpose building to replace the current youth arena.
“The original youth arena was built in 1954,” said Darrell Champer, president of the sale committee. “The roof leaks, it has a bad layout, it’s hot.”
The new facility will be much larger and designed to accommodate not only the county’s 4-H and FFA members, but also serve as a year-round resource for family, business and community events.
Champer said the project will cost an estimated $500,000. The plan calls for a metal-sided building that matches the style of the nearby Bill and Tootie Green Memorial Building.
The timeline for the project will depend on the flow of donations. Several donors have already stepped forward with commitments, and the Madison County commissioners are matching two dollars for every dollar the committee raises.
Whether the facility is completed all at once or in phases, Champer said the first priority is the arena.
“Our No. 1 goal is to have the arena done by next year’s fair, our 125th fair. The contractor thinks we can turn it around quick,” he said.
The youth arena and general purpose building are the first of what the sale committee hopes will be an ongoing string of improvements both big and small. Supporters got the ball rolling in the last couple of years with construction of a poultry barn and installation of new wash racks.
“We’re just trying to the turn the fairgrounds around and get more people involved, and it’s happening,” Champer said, noting that the Madison County Agricultural Society’s membership has shot up from several dozen to its current total of 286. “We’re growing very, very fast out there.”
The county commissioners’ increased support started this past year with funding to pave one of the roads to the horse barn and pour a concrete floor in the new poultry barn. The decision to offer a 2:1 match on fundraising dollars reflects their desires to see substantial changes.
“We’ve got many decades of repairs to make up for,” said Commissioner Paul Gross. “We’re offering $250,000 in match in 2013. It appears we will have enough business and community support to spend all that.”
Gross said he and his fellow commissioners are already talking about repeating the 2:1 offer in 2014.
“Whether it’s volunteers doing projects or businesses donating money, it’s exciting to see all that come together,” he said.
For more information about the fairgrounds fundraising campaign, contact the Madison County Junior Fair Sale Committee at sale...@yahoo.com. Members of the infrastructure sub-committee are: Dave Burchett, (614) 202-0720; Darrell Champer, (614) 743-7441; Matt Higgins, (614) 419-4018; Doug Peterman, (614) 206-5553; and Tony Xenikis, (614) 989-1717.
Tax-deductible donations can be made to the “Madison County Junior Fair Sale Committee Building Fund,” c/o of Merchants National Bank, P.O. Box 650, London, OH 43140.
The Madison County Fairgrounds are located at 205 Elm St. in London.