GREENVILLE — One of the largest privately held corporations in the world has donated $500,000 toward the Darke County Fair Board’s efforts to build new barn facilities to house the Junior Fair’s swine, goat and dog departments.
The Fair Board held a special meeting Wednesday evening to vote on whether to accept the donation from Cargill, a multi-national agricultural corporation based in Minnesota but with facilities throughout the Midwest, including Ohio.
“We were speechless when we learned of Cargill’s generosity. This is a big victory for our 4H/FFA kids and the community,” Brian Rismiller, secretary and fair manager, said in a press release issued Thursday.
Jason Brewer, plant superintendent at Cargill’s facility in Sidney, expressed similar sentiments.
“Cargill may be a global company, but the success of our company is largely dependent upon the success of the communities in which we live and work,” Brewer said.
In October of last year, board members voted to hire Fair Funding LLC, a nonprofit consulting company based in Cincinnati, to conduct a feasibility study to determine whether enough support existed in the community to raise the potential $2.5 million in funds needed for construction of the new barns. The Fair Board, as well as the Junior Fair Swine Committee, Goat Committee, Dog Committee and Darke County Barrow Boosters, each pledged an equivalent amount toward the $12,000 cost of the study.
Plans for the new barn were called into question, however, following the Oct. 25 fire that destroyed the existing swine barn. That incident remains under investigation.
Attendees at Wednesday’s meeting discussed alleged plans to relocate the new barns to the southern end of the fairgrounds, with many expressing concerns that this would create difficulties for fairgoers wishing to attend multiple events, as well as disrupting relationships and camaraderie that have developed between junior fair exhibitors in different departments over the course of many years.
OSU Darke County Extension educator Rhonda Williams expressed a different viewpoint, however.
“The people who built these fairgrounds were visionaries,” Williams said. “Now this board has a chance to be visionaries. If we’re going to continue to be the Great Darke County Fair, you need to ask yourselves: are the people sitting here a hundred years from now going to say that the 2018-19 board members were visionaries? This is going to be your legacy.”
Concerns also were raised that any drastic change to the Fair Board’s proposal for the new facilities — such as moving them to the south end of the fairgrounds — potentially could endanger the Cargill donation, as a new proposal then would have to be presented to the company before the funds could be officially accepted.
“If we don’t get our heads screwed on straight, we’re going to lose half a million dollars,” board member David Singer said. “And we’re going to look like idiots.”
The board ultimately voted to accept Cargill’s donation and authorize Matt Hughes of Fair Funding LLC to begin moving forward with fundraising efforts. The next meeting of the Darke County Fair Board will be held at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 6 in the board’s office at the county fairgrounds.