New $1 gate fee to walk into fairgrounds

Thursday, April 27, 2006

With finances tight for county agencies, the Putnam County Fair Board is looking for new ways to pay for the nine eventful days that many 4-H'ers and fairgoers have come to expect each July.

And, thanks to some ongoing fundraising, the board decided to reinstate premiums for completed 4-H projects for this year's fair.

One new source of funding this year will be a walk-in fee of $1 for each person who enters the front gate of the fairgrounds along U.S. 231.

The purpose of the gate fee is to make up some of the money that has been cut from the fair budget, board members noted during their discussion.

Many people each year avoid paying the parking fee to enter the fairgrounds by parking along the highway or Edgelea Drive, and then walking in through the front gate.

But also, the fee will hopefully discourage people from parking at businesses along the highway since it creates a hazard for pedestrians and traffic. The fee will also create the need to watch the perimeter of the fairgrounds to stop people from walking across neighboring property to sneak through the fence.

Fairgrounds parking rates will also increase this year to make up some lost income. Fair passes will be $7 in advance for fair week, and $10 for the weekly pass if purchased once the fair starts.

Meanwhile, the cash premiums paid in the past for 4-H projects will again be paid for this year's Putnam County Fair, despite an earlier decision by the Fair Board that was prompted by county budget cuts.

Donations are now being collected to fund the $7,500 needed to pay premiums as in past years. The premiums vary according to the prizes received. For instance, a blue ribbon on a project in the Exhibit Hall earns $1.50, while a red ribbon earns $1 and a white ribbon earns 50 cents. Livestock projects also pay premiums based on the placing of the entry.

The future of premiums for the 2007 county fair and beyond may also depend on donors and fundraising, the board noted. A committee may be established to determine how to best raise the premium funds for future fairs.

The Fair Board voted in March to take the line item for premiums out of its budget for this year, due to budget cuts decided by the county commissioners and county council. But a Fair Board member took it upon himself to raise that money so that in addition to their ribbons, 4-H members will also receive the small monetary prizes that accompany their awards.

Jake Zaring told fellow board members at the April meeting that he has a good start on the fundraising, but there is still a lot to be raised to cover money given out in the past. Any donations can be sent to the county extension office, located in the courthouse annex at 2 W. Liberty St., Greencastle.

The Fair Board agreed still not to fund the premiums given for the Adult Open Class entries or the horticulture and flower awards given in Harris Hall.

Fair Board president Ken Heeke told fellow board members that the next couple of years may be tough financially.

"We may have to change how we do things to get the same things accomplished," Heeke said.

The premium fundraising project by Zaring is just one example of creative thinking.

In other business, the board:

-- Learned the Dairy Club will have a meeting at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 13 in the Dairy Barn.

-- Agreed that the Horse and Pony Club can do some dirt moving work for the outdoor arena to improve drainage.

-- Heard the Sheep Club will have its retinal scan day on Saturday, May 6 at the old highway garage on the north side of the fairgrounds.

-- Learned that a new scholarship fund for county 4-H members has been founded by Ed and Barbara Brookshire for college-bound or current college students.

-- Heard that 52 4-H'ers are enrolled in the new shooting sports project. The total number of 4-H'ers this year already exceeds 800, and is expected to top 900 youth once the Exploring 4-H youth are involved.

-- Discussed the status of the former Jaycees building at the fairgrounds. The use of that building has been suggested as a prime spot for the livestock producers to have their nightly fundraiser cookouts.

-- Learned that the proposal for a new digital message board at the fairgrounds would place the sign near the southern end of Harris Hall closer to the highway and the fence. The Greencastle Rotary Club is working on that project.

The Fair Board regularly meets at 7:30 p.m. on the fourth Monday of each month at the fairgrounds. The meetings are open to the public.

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