Darke County Fairboard talks, capital funds, Jr. Fair, more

Gaylen Blosser photo.

GREENVILLE—The Darke County Agricultural Society Board of Directors met on Wednesday evening to discuss capital grant funds, Jr. Fair and the swine barn. All 11 directors were present.

During public comment, Mariah Kreusch, 2022 Darke County Fair Queen, thanked the board for their support at the Ohio Fair Manager’s Association 2023 convention a couple of months ago.

Kreusch competed for the Ohio Fairs’ Queen title.

“Thank you guys so much for that experience,” she said. “I will hold onto it my whole life.”

Next, the board heard the Jr. Fair Report from Rhonda Williams, Jr. Fair Coordinator.

Williams informed the board that GraceLynn Harter, Darke County Jr. Fairboard Member, was recently selected as an Ohio State Fair Jr. Fairboard Member. She will serve a two-year term.

Harter shared some updates from the Jr. Fairboard March 2023 meeting.

She told the board that the jr. board is working on an inclusive show on the Monday during the fair for kids of all abilities.

The show is often called Heart of the Champion show in other counties in the state, like Sandusky and Wyandot. However, Harter hopes to come up with a new name for Darke County’s first inclusive show.

“I have a connection with someone from Sandusky County, Katelyn Graber,” she said. “She started a Heart of Champions show in her county last year. I saw the opportunity, and I thought it would be really cool to start in our county.”

Harter invited Graber to the March 2023 Jr. Fairboard meeting to discuss the project with their board. Graber shared information on the event, and Harter added that Jr. Fairboard now has a committee working on getting the event together.

“We want to create our own show, without the word ‘disability’ in it,” she said. “That way it draws in more people. Disability is already tied in with these kids, and they hear it most of their life. We just want to create an inclusive environment for everybody.”

The Jr. Fairboard discussed starting the event with smaller species such as goats, sheep and rabbits.

Williams added that the Jr. Fairboard will set up families to act as mentor families for the show participants, so the child has support within the ring and as they get ready for the show.

“She [Graber] also had waivers and things that she developed,” Williams said. “She was kind enough to give us all the paperwork so we don’t have to start from scratch.”

Williams encouraged any families interested in being a mentor family to reach out to the Jr. Fairboard.

In addition, Harter told the directors that the Jr. Fairboard passed a motion to allow exhibitors opt out of the live auction.

Exhibitors would indicate at weigh in whether they plan to participate in the live auction, or submit buyer forms. If the exhibitor were to win Grand Champion or Reserve, the animal would be required to participate in the live auction.

The Sr. Fairboard approved those motions.

Next, Treasurer Marla Werner talked Capital Grant funds.

“I’m following up on what we can do with the money, in regards to the language in it,” she said. “I have called out and talked with the ODA. We are checking on language and what we can do to move forward.”

The board was awarded funds from Cargill, a multi-national agricultural corporation based in Minnesota, for the construction of an ‘education center/community building in 2019.

In addition, the board was awarded $500,000 in capital grant funds. About $200,000 of the grant were used to fix water issues, but $300,000 remains towards the construction project. They must use the remaining funds on the construction of a community center of some sort, per the grant.

Werner added that they recently find out they can file for an extension of deadline for grant usage.

“We will go ahead and start that extension,” she said. “We will also get details on what that looks like, I’m not sure how far back that goes.”

Werner explained out of 20 fairs granted funds, only five have used them. She said the ODA is expecting more fairs to also do extensions, and that it’s normal.

Chance Cox, lawyer for the Darke County Agricultural Society, said he had a really great call with Cargill on Tuesday.

“The biggest takeaway was discussing the community center, they were fully on board and supportive of it,” he said. “They feel it fits their corporate mission of education and 4-H. The biggest thing I took away was, ‘Feel free to use some if all of it towards that community center.’ If that’s the decision, they are fully on board with that.”

Werner responded, and reminded the board they do have a motion on the table, regarding their three-phase construction project.

The project includes a first phase of building an open sided steel framed building to use as a multi species show arena. In the area of the old Dog barn (across from Beef Pavilion), which they hoped to have completed before the 2023 Fair.

The second phase consists of building a community/education center around Gate #1 area. This would have a kitchenette, bathrooms, and meeting room. The building would be available for 4-H, FFA, Junior Fair, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, to name a few, as well as the community. It will also house the dogs during the fair. They anticipated starting that in 2023 as well and hopefully have completed by the 2024 fair. This building is pending ODA approval.

The third phase was to build a multi-purpose barn to be built in the area where the current sheep and goat barns are at.

Werner pushed for the board to start on the second phase, first, as soon as possible.

“They don’t have to be done in this order, it was just these are the three things we want to do,” she said. “If we go forward with the community center, and ask for bids, we can at least start that process.”

Vice President Jim Zumbrink said he thinks that’s the direction that the board is headed.

“That’s where we’re headed, but the board needs to have a discussion,” he said. “If we move forward, it’s going to take some time. It will need state approval, which could take two to three months.”

He also added with starting phase two, the board satisfies three entities: the grant, Cargill’s donation and the dog department.

“You’re not going to satisfy the swine, who started all of this?” An audience member from the Swine Dept. said. “We need the building, need the space. You’ve already heard from the swine people.”

Director Jason Manning said regarding the swine barn project, they need to look into pricing, and start from there.

“The swine people started all of this,” the attendee from the swine barn added. “We have no room. Our barn isn’t safe. You’re not wanting to do anything for us? Have you been in the barn during our shows? It is not safe. If you take out the pigs, what are you guys going to have? We take in the most exhibitors, we have the most money.”

Director Heidi May responded, and reminded the attendee the board is still short in funds with building the swine barn.

Manning, and Director Dean Neff added in that they have heard from multiple people from the swine dept. that they would rather wait three to five years, and have the building built correctly, than settle.

Manning said that in the meantime, he will work with the dept. to rearrange pig pins, and create a safer show environment.

After the audience member left, Werner acknowledged they aren’t going to please everybody.

“I understand she’s upset,” she said. “I don’t blame her, I would feel the same if I was in her shoes. But, there are others in the room who feel the same way about their species, so we know we aren’t going to please everybody. We have to do what’s best for us right now.”

Lastly, the board discussed Eldora and the rabbit restrooms.

The board had a lengthy discussion on Eldora Speedway renting three of four of the fair’s shuttles for their big races this summer.

In exchange for the shuttles, Eldora offered advertising for the fair concert on the jumbotron at the races.

After the talk, the board voted and the motion to allow them to rent the shuttles failed.

Zumbrink then discussed the rabbit restrooms.

“We had our plumber come in,” he said. “I’m sure you’re all aware we had our urinals that were in there fall off the wall.”

New urinals are $125 a piece, including plumbing, but not including labor. The board approved the purchase of four urinals.

“I think it’s a no-brainer,” Zumbrink added. “That restroom isn’t pretty, or anything. But it gets used an awful lot during the fair.”

The Darke County Fair Board meets the first Wednesday of every month at 7:30 p.m. at 800 Sweitzer St., Greenville, Ohio, 45331, in the meeting room across from the fair office. For more information, contact the fair office at 937-548-5044.