On Wednesday, March 21, the Columbia County Board of Commissioners approved the Fair Board’s request to use $81,950 from their funds to pave the vendor area at the fairgrounds in St. Helens.
President of the Columbia County Fair Board, Butch Guess, said the main goal is to make the Fairgrounds more handicap-accessible.
Guess said the fairgrounds has needed the upgrade for a while explaining that the ground becomes soggy when wet. Currently, there is gravel at the vendor area, which is where the paving is scheduled sometime before this year’s County Fair.
The Fairgrounds are the location for many events such as; dog shows, weddings, and the County Fair to mention a few, yearly.
“A lot of elderly people are coming out,” Guess said.
Saying wheelchairs can’t get around to see as well, Guess said the board wants seniors to be just as comfortable as the youngest generation coming out there.
Paving the vendor area also makes camping possible all year around. So far, camping has only been available when weather complies.
According to Guess, the Fair Board has put between $250,000 to $300,000 into repairs since 2011. In 2015, sidings on barns were repaired and last fall the roads were paved.
The Fairgrounds was moved out from Deer Island in 1968.
“It’s been a lot of years without tender love and care,” Guess said. “The last seven years has been good.”
He said many people believe the county is funding the Fairgrounds, but Guess said most of the funding comes from sponsors and not taxpayer money.
“We have long term visions, but have to take baby steps,” he said.
Guess said the Fairgrounds are booked out a year in advance.
“That’s how we get through the winter,” he said.
“At some point the plan is to build an indoor arena for multi-use,” Guess said.
He said the plans are in the works, but that it probably will not happen in his lifetime. He said the arena is going to be huge and that it can house 5000 people.
“We have one of the best rodeos around, but not enough seating,” Guess said. “The more we do, the more we grow.”
He said whatever the Fair Board do, they try to make it better.
“We try to make it as efficient as we can,” Guess said. “The commissioner are really good to us out here. For the most part they let us do what we want as long as we are improving.”
The Fair Board consists of seven volunteers. All of them work except for Guess who retired two years ago. He is at the Fairgrounds five days a week.
“I love what I’m doing,” or else he would not have been there he said.
Next year, the plan is to upgrade the bathrooms with showers.