Sanders County Ledger - Your Best Source For Sanders County News

By Ed Moreth 

County fair welcomes new board members

Manager, assistant positions remain open as planning continues


March 28, 2019

Ed Moreth

NEW GUY ON THE BLOCK – Tim Ellis, new on the Sanders County Fair Commission, makes an inquiry to Matt Jaramillo, owner of Big Sky Networks, about internet coverage of the fair.

The newest Sanders County Fair Commission member showed up a little late for last week's meeting, but once he settled in he got right to business.

The board members were discussing the contract for this year's carnival and seemed to be coming to an agreement when Tim Ellis started questioning why the carnival owner was telling the board what she wanted, instead of the other way around.

Paradise Amusements, the carnival that worked the fair last year, sent a new contract to the board with several provisions, such as not having any other vendors within 200 feet of the midway, wanting to close down early on Thursday, the fair providing showers, and a five-year contract.

"They shouldn't be stipulating what the fair does," said Ellis, who moved to Thompson Falls in November as the new manager of Whitefish Credit Union. He had been selected by the county commissioners the previous week to fill a vacancy on the fair board. "We should have five contracts instead of one telling us what we're going to do," he added. In addition, the contract didn't mention how many rides the company would have at the fair, something board member Roberta Smith said she'd like to see in the contract.

Paradise Amusements of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, served Sanders County last year with a one-year contract. Although there were only minor complaints about Paradise Amusements, the county will only go as far as three years for a contract, said Randy Woods, the interim fair board chairman. Paradise Amusements paid the county $27,714 last year.

"In looking back at the records, it's one of the first times that the carnival's paid some pretty good money," Woods said at last Wednesday's meeting.

The new proposed contract would provide the fair with 25 percent of the net sales and 27 percent of the advance ticket sales, said Woods. In addition, the county gets $150 for each food booth and $100 for each game booth.

Paradise Amusements was the only carnival available last year, but Ellis believes there are options and volunteered to contact other fair boards to find out what carnivals they use. Woods said that due to time constraints, the board would have to schedule a special meeting to get the carnival contract done in time. Minus a fair manager and assistant, who both resigned last month, and missing one board member, the board has been trying to iron out several contracts for the upcoming fair. Commissioner Carol Brooker said two people have shown interest for the manager position and two for the assistant job. She said that once a manager is selected by the fair commission, it's up to the manager to pick an assistant.

The commissioners did appoint the fifth board member last week – Jim Newman of Plains, a former Hot Springs resident – to make it a complete board. Although Newman was present at last week's meeting, he hadn't been notified at that point. Newman had served on the board for some six years, resigning two years ago to avoid any perceived conflict of interest when his son-in-law, Chris McGuigan, was hired as fair manager. McGuigan quit last month. Newman also served as the 4-H community livestock chair for eight years and for nearly nine years has been the open class livestock chairman.

Since the manager quit, Woods has been filling in on a volunteer basis doing the job of the manager and secretary and spending about 10 hours a week in the fair office. Last weekend, he spent some 16 hours sending out letters to more than 100 prospective vendors for the 2019 fair and is still not done. He also walked the grounds last week in an effort to identify things that need to be done.

The Sanders County Concessions Group contract also needs to be finished. Woods noted at the meeting that the fair Facebook page needed updating and that the fair's webpage "is dead." Matt Jaramillo, owner of Big Sky Networks of Plains, is working to get the fair website working. Jaramillo has designed more than 275 web pages in his career.

The Powder River Rodeo contract has one more year on it, but Woods said some paperwork needs to be done. Powder River has been serving the Sanders County Fair for 33 years. "They're top notch. They've been nominated top contractor for the last five years and they have two champion bareback horses," said Smith.

The board is considering starting the bull riding competition and rodeos an hour earlier. Woods said Powder River is for it. He believes that if people get out of the rodeos earlier, they might spend more time and more money at the fairgrounds. The carnival owner, Sherry Mckay, said that if the rodeos got out earlier and there were more people at the carnival, they could possibly stay open longer. Mckay is also considering a dollar a ride on Thursday evening, which is traditionally mostly locals, although people could not use their prepaid wristbands.

The manager position continues to be advertised. It is for an average of 30 hours a week and has a starting pay of $15.47 an hour, depending on experience. The administrative assistant works about 20 hours a week and has a starting pay of $12.24.

Ellis said he was happy to get selected for the board position and is looking forward to being a part of the fair. "I've always been a big fairgoer and I'm a big rodeo fan and I see a lot of opportunities here," said Ellis, who grew up on a dairy farm in Oregon.

The next regular board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, April 17, at 7 p.m. in the pavilion.


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