EATON — Over the past year and a half, the Preble County Fairgrounds has seen many building and grounds improvements — just in time for the 168th fair which opened this week. According to Fair Manager Jim Shute, those improvements equal roughly $2 million.
Shute explained, it began when the Preble County Board of Commissioners received a grant in the amount of $895,000. The grant was used for siding on buildings and to pave the fairgrounds. The commission also decided to renovate the ticket booth, since it is the first building people see when they enter the grounds.
That was the beginning of a long list of renovations.
A couple years ago the Agricultural Society received a grant in the amount of $100,000. Shute explained, this was a 50/50 grant — the State had to pay 50 percent, with Preble County paying the other 50 percent. This was used to install a new speaker system in the grandstands, new fencing, the storage barn in the back, and other similar improvements.
The Fairgrounds Office Building was also replaced with a new model recently. This was funded through private donations, at a cost of approximately $600,000. The building kept parts of the former building, to retain a sense of history.
Another improvement to the fairgrounds which was completed with 100 percent donated funds, is the new sign out front. This digital sign — which has the capability to display pictures — cost approximately $50,000 and was donated by the Timken Steel Foundation and the Preble County Development Partnership.
Finally, the biggest improvement to the grounds might be the Expo Expansion project, which is still ongoing. Preble County Commissioners have been working on the Expo Expansion for months, with the intention of bringing a banquet hall to the fairgrounds. The project has cost $800,000 thus far, but $300,000 more is needed in donations to complete the building.
All the plumbing was put in for the bathrooms and showers during the shell portion of the building, but at this point that is all that has been completed in the shower area. For Fair Week, that area will be fenced off so people cannot get to it.
“This is a banquet room. We will rent it out for meetings, weddings, and anything else you want to rent a building for. It will hold 900 people standing and 400 people sitting in chairs. We need at least $300,000 in donations to finish this out. We need to get our baths and showers built,” Shute said.
The next building planned for improvements is the Produce Building, which is one of the oldest buildings on the grounds.
“We need to put siding on it, and the floor replaced, the foundation is not good, but we love the old barn structure. We’ve been cleaning it up inside and they are going to start raising funds to fix the building. We could tear it down and build a new one, cheaper than to fix it, but you wouldn’t have that same structure,” Shute said.
“It doesn’t seem like a lot [of improvements], but it is a lot. If you add it up, that is over $2 million in improvements over the last couple years. I think this is important for community pride, I think they take pride in the fairgrounds. I think when you take pride in something, it grows.
“I think community pride is happening with the fairgrounds. A lot of people have stepped up and helped out. They donated $600,000 for the office building and we’ll get that $300,000. There are so many people that donate that I can give advertising to.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH