Two county fair organizations in Northeast Michigan will get grants from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Presque Isle County Fair Association will get $2,525 toward a project to upgrade its electrical services, and Alcona County Fair will get $8,050 to improve the fairgrounds pavilion. Theirs were among the 22 grants awarded by MDARD, with totals ranging from Presque Isle County's to $20,000 for seven projects around the state, including one for rustic campground upgrades and expansion for the Upper Peninsula State Fair in Escanaba.
The grants are a dollar-for-dollar match, and MDARD had $301,600 available this year, Communications Director Jennifer Holton said. They're intended for capital improvements projects for buildings and other fair facilities. Awarded annually, they allow the department to support a key connection between the state's agricultural economy, rural communities and youth development.
"It's been a really great opportunity for us to help support Michigan's county fairs," she said.
Alcona County Commissioner Kevin Boyat said he was notified of the grant award. It will be used to make improvements to the Alcona County Fairgrounds pavilion in Lincoln. The project includes construction of a large concrete pad for a food area. He said he also is hoping to receive a grant from The Home Depot for paint and other supplies.
For the Presque Isle County Fair's grounds in Millersburg, the grant will be used to upgrade the electrical service and make it available in more places, Presque Isle County Fair Association Board President Rachel Goodstein said. It's part of a five-year "reinvention" of the county fair.
In recent years, events at the fair put too much strain on the fairgrounds electrical system, Goodstein said. One year when an amusement company brought inflatable laser tag courses and other games, this combined with the cooler for the beer tent and other loads caused the circuit breakers to constantly trip.
"With this (upgrade), we should be able to have a wider variety of things down the road," she said.
Electrical upgrades are one of a list of improvements the fair association hopes to make in the future, Goodstein said. One is building indoor bathrooms, and better electrical services is a step toward building them.
It also could allow for other events at the fairgrounds at other times of the year, Goodstein said. She'd like to see more people use the rustic campground there, and possibly host youth programming as well. Hosting other events could bring in more money for the fair association, allowing it to make even more improvements in the future.
"We're very grateful that the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development decided to fund this project," she said. "It will be very helpful."
The fair association board will meet soon and discuss its plans for fundraising, Goodstein said. Along with other grants and sources of funds, the fair board is always looking for more involvement at all levels. That means volunteers, board members and exhibitors at the fair itself.
Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Betsy on Twitter @bl_alpenanews.