A group of 16 city and county officials took a fact-finding bus tour, sponsored by the Clinton County Fair Council, to Hendricks and Boone counties Tuesday to get some ideas on the best way to improve the Clinton County Fairgrounds.
“We’re trying to improve the Clinton County Fairgrounds and we’re going to have to figure out how to do that,” said Fair Council President Jamie Blacker. “By attending Hendricks and Boone County today, we were looking at their facilities and what they’ve done in the last several years to improve their county and we wanted to get some ideas.”
Blacker made it abundantly clear that they were not going to build what has been done at those two facilities.
“We can take bits and pieces from what they’ve done and apply it here,” said Blacker. “How we’re going to do that and fund that, we don’t know. We’re trying to put a plan together. Bring those all entities (who were on the trip) together that use the county fair and support it. Then, we’ll put it all together for the years to come.”
The group left the Clinton County Fairgrounds and headed for Danville, which is the county seat and home base for the Hendricks County 4-H Fairgrounds which is headed up by Executive Director Steve Patterson.
Patterson said the facility has evolved from a 25-acre site near the jail to the current site of 150 acres . After visiting what they thought was the top three facilities in the state (which was in Hamilton County, Porter County and Elkhart County), Patterson said floated an $18 million bond which passed. The facility, which opened in 2006, has only two full-time employees, but lots of other help, to build what he labels as the “Elkhart of the North.” Patterson views Elkhart as the state’s top facility.
The first thing that greeted the group was a building that has both the fair organization and Purdue Extension Office in one huge facility. Patteson said they had over 1,100 paid events a year ago and they are booked solid into 2018 and beyond. Quite an accomplishment for a city which is only the fourth largest city in Hendricks County after Avon, Plainfield and Brownsburg. Patterson said the county has an overall population of between 130,000 to 140,000.
Patterson also said they added campsites and a brand new carnival to its growing list of participants using the facility. He added they went to a $5 per person entry fee and raised an additional $47,210 to its financial war chest.
Following lunch at the Mayberry Cafe on the downtown square in Danville, the group headed to Lebanon to tour the Boone County 4-H Fairgrounds. Director Jack Jones showed the group around the 60-acre facility. Boone County also has its Extension Office inside the same building with its fair group.
LIke Patterson, Jones said his facility is booked for 2018 and a ways into 2019.
“We have a lot of cleanup to do, putting the wires underground, we need new buildings and things like that,” said Clinton County Commissioners President Scott Shoemaker. “What we’ve seen today is what we’ve had in our minds. Now, we’ve actually seen it. I think the best thing today was we got other people to see exactly what we’ve been talking about.”
Shoemaker said the next step is decide what is needed for Clinton County and figure out a price tag.
“This will be a lengthy project,” said Shoemaker. “I think we really need to commit to the infrastructure. We can’t go out and just ask businesses to sponsor this. The county has also got to invest in this property out here.”