By Ryan Berry
GREENVILLE — The Darke County Agricultural Society has come up with its building plan and it will include three phases. Visitors to the fair could see changes as soon as the 2023 fair. Following an executive session that lasted more than an hour, directors emerged to approve the plan.
Phase 1 of the plan is to build an open-sided steel multi-species show arena in the area that once was home to the Dog House and dog show arena. This is the area between the Goat Barn and the Beef & Dairy Pavilion. The plan is to use the new arena for cattle (beef and dairy) and goats. The current Swine Barn would continue to house swine, but the current Cattle Show Arena would transition to host swine shows throughout the fair.
According to Darke County Agricultural Society President Greg Pearson, the structure is expected to be 60’x200’ and they will raze the building that is across the alley from the Rabbit Barn. The Dog House has already been razed. He explained the board was searching for a way to provide more space for the swine department and give them a proper show arena. He believes the walkway between the Swine Barn and the current Cattle Show Arena can be barricaded to prevent hogs from getting loose. Pearson shared there was concern there would be too much foot and other traffic to get the swine from their current building to the new show arena, which is why they settled on the Cattle Show Arena.
The board also recognizes there are concerns about the gravel base in the current Cattle Show Arena, but the board believes it can be packed down to where it is almost like concrete.
Although they plan on having swine in the old Cattle Show Arena, the board may have other species show in that facility depending on show schedules.
Phase 2 of the project is a Community Education Center that will be built near Gate 1 or Gate 2. An exact location for the building has not yet been determined. During the fair, the building will house the dog department and dog shows. The facility will have a meeting room, kitchenette, and restroom and can be used by the community as a meeting space, 4-H clubs, and other organizations throughout the year.
This building is expected to be between 8,000 and 12,000 square feet. They hope to have plans prepared in the next few weeks. Those plans must go to the Ohio Department of Agriculture to get approval because of the $500,000 grant the fair received. Approximately $200,000 of the grant was used to fix water issues, but $300,000 remains towards the project.
Phase 3 will include the demolition of the sheep and goat barns and the erection of a new barn and show arena. Pearson said the board has not determined which species will occupy this new barn. It could be a mixture of a couple of species. The board has not ruled out putting hogs in the Phase 3 barn. There is no timetable for Phase 3 completion.
The board is working with Cargill and will need to work with the Brown Family Foundation and Hill’s Pet Food to work out an agreement on naming rights for the new buildings since plans have changed dramatically since 2019.
Tim Reck represented the horsemen who rent stalls from the Darke County Agricultural Society when he presented a report on the cost to repair numerous stalls in the barns that house racehorses. Reck was asked by the fair board at their January meeting to work with Craig Bowman, director, and report back to the board.
Reck shared the only place he could find that had the boards they needed were at Clarksville Stave and Lumber near Xenia at $18 a board. None of the local lumber yards had the lumber available. Each stall would require 30 boards and some of the existing boards can be reused.
Last month, Reck said there were 42 stalls that needed repairs and 15 of those stalls currently house horses. The damage was caused by horses that kick the boards. The barns have 77 stalls with mats installed that help protect the wood. Of the matted stalls, only one needs repaired. Reck wants to begin installing mats in all of the stalls. The cost, per mat, is $29.99. Five mats are needed for each stall.
Reck understands the cost the board would incur if they fixed all the stalls at once and suggested the board commit to a five- or six-year plan. The cost to do 10 stalls this year would be $6,900, 12 stalls would be $8,280 and 15 stalls would be $10,350. There would be an additional cost for washers and nails.
“I don’t know the exact amount of money the fair board has taken in stall rent. Would it be safe to say that over the past 10 years we’ve paid over a million dollars in stall rent,” asked Reck. The board suggested the average per year was $120,000 a year. “What I’m asking is that you show the same respect to the people down there, that make their living to come in here 365-days a year, as you do to this end (north end) that is here two weeks and gone the rest of the year.”
The cost estimate will go to the Building & Grounds Committee before coming back to the full board for a decision.
The board approved a fundraising proposal from Director Dean Neff. He suggested the board purchase a Gator with a dump bed, sealed cab with heat, four-wheel drive and power steering. The cost to the board is approximately $16,500. Neff is hoping they can get it a little cheaper. The raffle tickets would be $10 each. The board will set a minimum of 1,800 tickets sold before the drawing can be held. Plans are to hold the drawing at the board’s appreciation dinner in the fall. Tickets will go on sale as soon as they are available and plans are to have them at the Darke County Sheriff’s Patrol Home & Sport Show and other events, including the fair, throughout the spring and summer.
The next regular meeting of the Fair Board will be March 1, 7:30 p.m., Secretary Office, Darke County Fairgrounds.
To contact Daily Advocate Editor Ryan Berry, email [email protected].