GREENVILLE — The Annie Oakley Festival will return to the Darke County Fairgrounds next summer.
Annie Oakley Committee President JoEllen Melling spoke to the Darke County Fair Board at their monthly meeting Wednesday about signing a three-year contract for the festival to return to the fairgrounds. In recent years, the event has taken place at York Woods, about eight miles north of Greenville.
Melling asked fair board members to amend their proposed contract, which would charge food service vendors setting up shop at the event an additional $45 per day, on top of fees already being charged by the festival committee.
Melling said the committee had already lowered their own fees several times to entice food vendors to come in, and she feared the additional cost levied by the fair board might discourage them from participating.
“The festival is free to get in,” Melling said. “The only way we make money is from vendors, concessionaires, and I write a heck of a lot of grants.”
Melling said she felt that returning to the fairground was the only way for the festival to continue to grow, as their current York Woods location limits their ability to expand.
Holly Shaw, a Greenville High School student and 4-H member, said she agreed the event was ill-served by the York Woods location.
“As someone who participates in the Annie Oakley Festival,” Shaw said, “I had several friends tell me they didn’t know where it was, or didn’t know how to find York Woods.”
Holly’s mother, Theresa Shaw, also spoke up.
“As a mom of someone who participates, it would be nice to be able to drive my camper up there,” Shaw said, earning laughs from some of the fair board members.
While board members Dave Niley and Jerry Marker stated they didn’t like waiving the food vendor fees because they felt it would set a troubling precedent, Richard Delk was more accommodating.
“Let’s do what we have to do to get them back in here and get them established,” Delk said.
Ultimately, the fair board voted unanimously to amend the contract. The new three-year deal would charge food vendors a one-time $45 fee to set up, rather than the original daily charge. The compromise seemed amenable to all concerned.
“Welcome back,” Delk said.
The board also heard concerns about the fair’s open and junior fair dog shows. Greenville Area Dog Club member Charlotte Wisener and others expressed concern that the dog barn being closed for several days during this year’s fair, combined with dog-related events being moved from the first few days of the fair to the last weekend, had severely hurt attendance.
“We changed the timing of those events so that parents could come and watch their kids show without having to take off work,” board member Ed Erisman said. “And frankly, I’m not inclined to change it back.”
Ultimately the board thanked Wisener for expressing her concerns and moved on to other business.
Finally, the board seated newly elected member Thomas Shaw and chose new officers for the coming year, with board member Cindy Riffle nominating Richard Delk for the position of President. Ultimately Dean Neff was re-elected to the position, with Erisman replacing Doug Martin as Vice President and Martin replacing Jerry Marker as Treasurer.
The next meeting of the Darke County Fair Board will be Wednesday, December 6.
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