Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Elkhart County 4-H Fair starts raising money for improvements

When the Elkhart County 4-H Fair purchased land for $1.4 million, it was just the start. Now the organization needs to raise funds to develop the land and make life easier for a quarter-million fairgoers.

Posted on June 18, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on June 18, 2013 at 4:33 p.m.

GOSHEN — When the Elkhart County 4-H Fair Board paid off the $1.4 million they spent to buy new land in 2011, they breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Now that they have land for future expansion, it’s time to start working in earnest to raise the money to use that land.

“We don’t really have a dollar amount,” said Tim Graber, this year’s fair board president. “We’re going to have to spend as much improving that property out there, at a very minimum to get infrastructure in, as we spent on the property itself,” said Graber.

The infrastructure work may make life much easier for the roughly quarter-of-a-million people who visit the fair each summer, since one of the top items on the list is a new road that will provide access to C.R. 36/College Avenue directly from the fairgrounds. Not only will that allow traffic to get in and out of the fairgrounds twice as fast, it will allow dedicated tram routes to greatly reduce the time it takes to get from the parking lots to the main gate of the grounds.

The fair board hopes to have that new route, which includes a bridge over Rock Run Creek, open by the 2016 fair, but Yoder thinks it could be open by the 2015 fair. The board hopes the College Avenue access will help reduce traffic problems when the state improves U.S. 33 from Goshen High School to downtown.

The first improvement, planned to be open before the 2014 fair, is new restrooms near Heritage Park and the Farmstead on the fairgrounds.

While the fundraising efforts for the developments will take many forms, the first attempt offers the opportunity for nearly anyone to help out.

Jill Garris, a member of the fair board, came up with the idea to sell commemorative 4-H shirts that will raise money for the fairgrounds, which serve as the major exhibition of the county’s 4-H program.

Garris and Graber both said the idea has seen an enthusiastic launch, with the first 100 shirts selling in five days.

Long-sleeve gray shirts are $15, and short-sleeve green shirts are $12, which Garris said provides “affordable, economical opportunities for everyone to have a stake in the future of the fair, everyone from all walks of life.”

The shirts bear the 4-H clover made up of single-word descriptions of the fair and 4-H from Elkhart County 4-H members. “Leadership” and “responsibility” join “triumphs” and “compassion” among the 84 descriptive words on the shirts. “It’s just been a very special project,” Garris said.

The shirts are available by calling Garris directly at 574-612-1337, and they will likely be on sale at the fairgrounds during the fair. The sizes run from youth medium to adult small through adult XXL, Garris said.

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