By Beccy Tanner
In its day, the old Quonset-style fair building on the Stafford County Fairgrounds was state-of-the-art.
It had an enclosed space, concrete floor, showers in the restrooms and giant electric fans that kept the air moving as fair-goers perused hundreds of 4-H projects.
That was more than 70 years ago.
In recent years as the steel framed-round top community building began to leak and rain water dripped on projects, the Stafford County Fair Board re-evaluated what they could do.
“The building’s roof had begun leaking and during heavy rains, it rained on photography exhibits and stuff like that,” said Billy Milton, fair board president. “We started looking into fixing the roof and got back an estimate that was going to cost between $30,000 to $40,000 to fix and that in 10 to 20 years, we’d have to do it again.
“We did not feel like that was the right area to pursue. It doesn’t make sense for us to be spend that much money. Our budget just is not that big to operate like that.”
A few weeks ago, the old 50 by 120-foot community building was removed from the fairgrounds.
And the ground has been prepared to receive a new building – a little bigger, 60 by 120-foot.
The construction will be more of a Morton-esque-style building.
The biggest hope and feature for it will be air conditioning, Milton said, and a more comfortable space for people to gather.
Using $250,000 in funds that was available to Stafford County to help stimulate the economy after the Covid pandemic, Milton said, the fair board was able to begin the process of replacing the old building. The money was awarded by Stafford County Commissioners with the stipulation it be spent by the summer of 2024.
“That led us to deciding to go ahead and replace the building,” he said. “It will suit our fair and the community a lot better than what we currently had … I have been on the fair board for the last six years and we’ve always kind of talked about wanting a new building – even back in the 1990s, there was talk about it.”
Milton said the fair board has partnered with Stafford County Economic Development to raise an additional $275,000 to pay for the building’s amenities – such as heating and air conditioning, a concession stand area with stove and refrigerator and install showers in the restrooms.
“The rest of it will be open for meetings, wedding receptions and reunions,” Milton said. “We entered into a fiscal sponsorship agreement with Stafford County Eco-Devo because our organization is not a 501-C nonprofit so that when people donate, they can still get the tax breaks and save a little bit of money with sales tax, also.”
The partnership allows for a tax-favored option.
People wanting to donate to the new building fund can do so by sending a check to the Stafford County Economic Development Office at P.O Box 233 at St. John, KS, 67576 or by calling 620-549-3527.
The checks can be made to Stafford County Eco-Devo with the words “Community Fair Building” in the memo portion of the check.
Donation levels include: Grand Champion level at $80,000 and up; Reserve Champion, $50,000 to $80,000; Champion, $20,000 to $49,000; Reserve, $10,000 to $19,000; Purple, $2,000 to $9,999; Blue, $500 to $1,999; Other and Add a Brick, $200 to $350.
A 4 x 8 brick with no clipart has three lines with 20 characters per line; the same size of brick with clipart has an equal number of lines with 15 characters per line; an 8 x 8 brick with no clipart has three lines with 20 characters per line; and with clipart, three lines with 20 characters.
People serving on the fundraising committee include Milton, Joanna McAlister, Barb Alpers and Sharilyn McNickle.
“Right now, with the amount of money we have, we have enough money to get the shell of a building. We can get it back to where we were before,” Milton said. “But the additional money will go towards plumbing, electrical, tables and chairs, a bathroom and kitchen area on the inside.”