Mark Stargell and other 4-H Fair organizers are still smiling more than a week after the events have ended.
Stargell, the fair board president, doesn’t know yet exactly how well the 2016 fair did, but he knows it’s better than last year.
Last year at this time, the board was talking about how to deal with a $9,000 gap between estimated income and expenses. Two grandstand events were canceled and attendance was low.
This year, even though the motocross races and Hoosier wrestling show were canceled because of weather-related safety concerns, returns are looking good.
Grandstand events are always the biggest money-makers.
A new event, Hillbilly Ninja Warrior, and higher attendance at the truck pull helped, Stargell said.
Even the carnival made more money this year; it was the most successful year to date, he said.
He said it’s too early to say what changes the board will keep for the 2017 fair. They’ve only met once since the fair closed Aug. 6.
However, he thinks the public has come to embrace a change that was introduced in 2015: a $1 charge for parking.
Stargell and other fair board members ferried fairgoers to and from their parking spots in a golf cart, and Stargell tried to gauge their feelings about the $1 charge.
Generally, people were receptive, with some saying the fee was years overdue, he said.
Income from parking this year will be split between Memorial Park Cemetery — which owns the parking area — and Shop With a Cop — which buys Christmas presents for children in need, Stargell said.
The fair board also has made progress renting out the fairgrounds during the rest of the year, Stargell said.
Being able to host events year-round was one reason presented for building new buildings and upgrading old ones before last year’s fair. County government issued a $500,000 bond to pay for that construction.
In the next few months, three weddings are scheduled at the Exhibit Building.
Alcohol can be served on the grounds at private events, such as wedding receptions, and the fair board is looking at possibly hosting a wine tasting. One restriction is that alcohol can’t be served anywhere on the grounds at the same time as any 4-H events, said Lisa Wilson, a 4-H educator.
Stargell said the fair will likely always need a little help from the county.
Each year, $178,000 in tax money is committed to go to the fair through 2018. All but $46,500 of it is going to pay the bond for the building improvements that were done last year.
On the ground
The fair seems to go a little smoother each year, Wilson said. She credited 4-H volunteers and community members who give of their time and resources.
“A lot of that goes unseen to the public that comes out to the fair, but it wouldn’t be as great as it is if not for those people that helped out,” she said.
“I did have a few people come up to me this year at the fair and say they were very interested in volunteering,” Wilson said. “I think that some of them see how well things are going, and people just want to be a part of that.”
Ideally, volunteers would only serve in a single role, Wilson said. There is still a lot of overlap, though duties are a little more evenly distributed over multiple people than they have been in the past.
“We have a lot of ‘yes’ people, not many ‘no’ people, which is good, but that can lead to burnout sometimes,” she said.
As soon as one fair is over, preparation for the next begins; 4-H clubs will start meeting again in October, Wilson said.
More volunteers are always welcome.
“It was just really neat to see so many people come together to make such a great thing happen this year,” she said. “And I feel like this year maybe that happened a little more than it usually does.”
Want to get involved with the 4-H Fair or 4-H? Contact or stop by the Purdue Extension office at the Brown County Fairgrounds for more information.
Hours: Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Address: 802 Memorial Drive, Nashville