Grange Hall: Changes on hold until after the fair

(Posted June 29, 2017)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

Contrary to plans made last month, the Grange Hall at the Madison County Fairgrounds will not have new flooring by fair time.

Originally, the senior fair board planned to replace the crumbling blacktop with concrete, but once crews cleared out the blacktop, they discovered the building’s support posts were rotted at the ground level.

The fair board halted the project and put down gravel as a temporary flooring fix to get through fair week, July 8-15.

“We want to reevaluate our issues (with the building) and make sure we’re doing the right thing,” said fair board member Dave Monnin. “Sometime in the short future… we would like to fix it or replace it. We don’t know what the answer is right now.”

Originally, the plan was to upgrade the flooring and install bleachers so that exhibitors of poultry and small animals could show their projects in the Grange Hall, out of the elements. For the last several years, they have been housing and showing their animals in the open-sided poultry pavilion.

With news of the flooring situation, the fair board switched gears. For this year’s fair, the poultry and small animal shows will take place in the sheep arena. The animals will be housed in the former Merchants Building.

The poultry pavilion is now an open area for fair visitors to sit at picnic tables in the shade. It also doubles as the venue for live music and the comedic hypnotist’s act during the fair.

Despite the post issues, the Grange Hall is structurally sound, Monnin said. It will still house an antique tractor display, photography exhibits, and Grange open class entries at this year’s fair.

Monnin reported the flooring hiccup to the Madison County commissioners on June 26. The commissioners had committed $15,000 of county funds for the floor installation. Monnin said the fair board only used a small amount of the money to install gravel instead. The remainder will go back into the county coffers.

The issue with the Grange Hall prompted Commissioner Dave Hunter to ask if the county should consider setting aside funds for the fairgrounds as part of the county’s annual budget.

Commissioner David Dhume said he favors lending financial assistance on an as-needed basis. The county has put hundreds of thousands of dollars toward new buildings on the grounds, which are generating rental revenues for the fair board.

“Let’s allow them to build their own economy out there and see where it goes,” Dhume said.

Rob Slane, county administrator, suggested that the fair board create a business plan that allows them to project several years out whether or not they can be self-sustaining. The plan could inform the board on any proposal they might make to be included in the county’s annual budget.

A business plan would help the fair board to formalize their vision for the facility and help to keep them on track financially, Slane said.

“In my mind, the fair board is going to start running more and more and more like a business, and they need a business plan in place,” he said.

Slane offered to help the all-volunteer board come up with the plan.

During fair week, the commissioners will hold their regular Monday meeting at 9 a.m. in the Della Selsor Building on the fairgrounds, rather than at the courthouse. The fairgrounds are located at 205 Elm St. in London.

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