|Fairgrounds find funding|
by Jacob Lane · June 04, 2014
The Muscatine County Fair is in line for a $360,000 donation from the Kent Corporation. The match donation program is intended to bring structural improvements to many of the grounds facilities.
Handed out over a period of five years, the donation is a big step towards improving the grounds. The Fair Board is thrilled by the prospect.
"We're honored to have the Kent Corporation step up and donate the money," said Adam Feldman, president of the Muscatine County Fair Board. "This money…it's pretty generous."
Of course, match funding indicates that for every dollar donated another must be raised alongside it. Accordingly, the Fair Board is about to kick off a yearlong fundraising campaign this weekend, June 6 through 7.
Entitled "Weekend at the Fair”, the two day event will host a ribeye cookout on Friday at 5 p.m. followed by a live auction at 7 p.m. in the Midway Pavilion. The following Saturday there will be a golf tournament held at the WL Country Club beginning at 9 a.m.
The structural improvement campaign will help preserve existing buildings as well as aid the construction of new facilities. Specifically, there is talk of restoring the swine building, a structure in dire need of attention on the fairgrounds.
"The swine building is kind of the number one building in need of help," said Feldman. "Another one is the grandstand. We're in the process of going through all the buildings, but we know there's some that need roof repairs."
These improvements should allow the Muscatine County Fair to expand its work in Muscatine County, as well as entertainment and attractions. It already hosts rodeos, concerts, live stock shows, 4H and FFA competitions and, of course, the yearly county fair.
"In the future we're thinking of adding a show ring, but that’s more than two or three years down the road," added Feldman.
The Fair Board expects there will be several individual donations to help turn the fairgrounds around. The Kent Corporation says it's excited to be a part of improving the grounds.
“While the County Fairgrounds are an important piece of history for our area, the usefulness of new and renovated facilities will help continue a strong agriculture tradition,” said Gage Kent, CEO of Kent Corporation. “Like Kent Corporation, the Fairgrounds has been around for generations and we hope that future generations will experience the benefits and value of an updated fairgrounds.”
The Kent corporation, headquartered in Muscatine, is the parent company of the Kent Nutrition Group, Kent Pet Group, Kent Precision Foods Group and Grain Processing Corporation.
For a while the Fair Board has been working with the Muscatine County Historic Preservation Commission. They have been examining the ground's historical structures in order to see if they qualify for the National Registry of Historic Places.
In order to qualify for historical status, which in turn can bring in funding and grants, a structure must be at least fifty years old. Therefore it must have been built before 1965.
After an initial walkthrough and day long assessment, the Preservation Commission estimates that around half of the buildings on the fairgrounds meet this status.
The Fair Board and Commission will begin a longer, more in depth, assessment in July. This will include historical research and reaching out to the community.
The fairgrounds have always been at the center of West Liberty, long before they were known as the Muscatine Fairgrounds. Before the 1990s they were known as the West Liberty Fair.
The oldest known building on the grounds was built in 1915, with several following as the years wore on. During a quick trip to the grounds one can see that several of the buildings have been around for a long time.
Now West Liberty uses the grounds for a variety of purposes, as a voting place, to host meetings, during the summer the West Liberty Raceway is a popular spot on Saturday nights, while several of the fun runs hosted in town often intertwine with the grounds.
With the $360,000 match donation and several of the structures finding themselves on the National Registry of Historic Places, the fairgrounds could be in for some big changes that will help them look exactly the same for years to come.