Sanders County Ledger - Your Best Source For Sanders County News

By Ed Moreth 

Changes coming for 2020 county fair


Ed Moreth

FAIR CONTRACT – Don Burrell, chairman of the Sanders County Concessions Group, voices his displeasure at the fair's contract with the nonprofit group at the June fair board meeting.

Despite the precautions and limitations placed on the Sanders County Fair Commission, the board last Wednesday said they will be trying some new things this year.  

Besides the Plexiglas installations, sanitation stations and signage throughout the fairgrounds with reminders of the pandemic, the board is also going to be selling space for 8-foot long sponsorship banners for the demolition derby, which the fair has never done, according to Randy Woods, the board chairman. He hopes to have at least 20 sponsors, but said they have room for nearly 100 on fences and Jersey rails. The money raised would go to help defray costs and help pay for derby prizes, which were raised from $10,000 to $25,000 this year.

For the first time, the fair board members themselves will be running the derby with the help of numerous volunteers. Woods said it'll be a learning experience, but feels it will be a good show. He plans to reduce delays between heats and hold two hard-luck heats instead of one. Also for the first time, they'll have a program with the name of the drivers and information about how derby cars are made.

Fair Manager Melissa Cady is also looking for sponsors for the electronic scoreboard for the rodeo and bull riding events. Cady said they will be able to play commercials and show replays of the competition, also a first for the fair. She's looking for four main sponsors for $3,000 each and possibly sponsors for shorter pieces during transition times at a lower cost. Sponsor money would help pay for the $12,000 rented scoreboard, said Woods.

Board member Kim Bergstrom came up with a sign plan of her own to help remind people of the social distancing guidelines. Instead of signs that just say stay six feet apart, she proposed a sign of a person with a cow to illustrate the needed social distance. She believes that would get the message out there and be more fun than all the "whole doom and gloom" message. 

Bergstrom drafted a Communicable Disease Plan as a guideline to help reduce the spread of disease and "to produce an event that is safe and prudent so that participants and visitors can have a positive experience at the Sanders County Fair." Bergstrom passed out copies to the rest of the board for their perusal. It will also be reviewed by Sanders County Board of Health. "There is no guarantee of an illness-free event in spite of extensive planning and embracing personal responsibility," Bergstrom wrote. "Reducing transmission of communicable diseases carries responsibilities for event organizers and individuals alike," she added. The draft includes guidance for those on the fairgrounds and in the grandstands. It states that events tickets will be reserve seating only and in blocks of 50 in order to leave adequate spacing between groups. The draft encourages staggered arena entry to minimize exposure before and after events. It also proposes one-way traffic in barns to reduce crowding.

Bergstrom said that although the fair board is responsible to provide some precautions, fair goers also have a personal responsibility. "They need to do their part, they need to wash their hands and they need to socially distance. We can't go around policing everybody on the last time they washed their hands or you're too close to this person or that person," she said.

During the near two-hour meeting, the board picked this year's fair theme, unanimously voting for "Country Folks Can Survive," which was a collaborative effort by the South Side Sparks 4-H club. Tara Browning, a member of the South Side Sparks, also submitted the theme "Sunflowers and Summer Nights." 

Members also discussed having fireworks for Independence Day and decided to go with Class C this year, which is the type the average person can buy. Class B was initially what they wanted, but they would need a licensed person firing them. Woods said that if the board wanted, he would go though the required class and get the permit for next year. Although the board couldn't officially vote on it because it wasn't on the agenda, they unofficially agreed to kick in $1,000 toward the fireworks cost. Woods said the members will be officially voting on it electronically this week. He said the promoter for the upcoming monster truck event volunteered to donate money for the fireworks show, as will the Fair Foundation. Cady announced at the meeting that they will be looking at hiring a new cleaning crew for fair time. The last crew, which quit, received $8,000 last year, but Cady said they hadn't determined a price for this year. The manager also announced that Bobby Mayes, a Paradise resident, won't be showing his antique engine and tool exhibit this year, something he has done for 33 years. The 82-year-old Mayes said he's moving to Arkansas where he has family.

The Sanders County Concessions Group, a nonprofit organization, was on hand to voice their displeasure at this year's contract with the fair. Katy French, the vice chair, believes their vendors are taking all the risks. She's concerned that their group would purchase all their food items and then the government would cancel the fair. The group has seven booths and divides its profits evenly between them each year. "We can't ensure anything," said Woods. "If the government shuts us down, the government shuts us down." He also noted that all but one vendor has returned their signed contracts, including other nonprofits. 

Don Burrell, the group's chairman, said he wasn't happy that the contract has the group paying 20 percent of their gross income, rather than 20% of the net or a flat fee, which they have done in the past. "The board decided that everyone was going to be treated fairly and everyone was going to pay the exact same fee straight across, a straight 20% for everybody on the fairgrounds," said Woods, who added that the concessions group, like others, could set their own goods prices. "I don't think it's fair. We are nonprofit. One hundred percent of the money that we make comes back into our community," said French. 

Burrell, 77, the only person at the meeting wearing a protective mask, was also concerned about their vendor participants and the health risks they'd be taking by manning the booths this year. He said that 95% of their people are senior citizens, which are most susceptible to the coronavirus. French said that most of the elderly have been indoors for the last couple months and weren't sure that any are willing to interact with a large crowd this year. 

Burrell said the group will be meeting this week to decide whether or not to participate this year. He said the fair is the group's biggest fundraiser of the year. "We count on that money to give out scholarships and help people in need," said Burrell. Cady said they have 20 food vendors, so far, this year and would fill those booths this year with other vendors if the concessions group doesn't want to be there. 

 Burrell asked the board that if they didn't participate this year, would they be out permanently. "It's too early for us to make that decision. I don't think there's any member on this board that would want to alienate the nonprofits in the county," said board member Milanna Shear.

The next regular monthly board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, July 15, at 7 p.m. A special Sanders County Board of Health meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, June 24, at 6 p.m. at the pavilion.



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