4-H Fairgrounds prepares for record use in 2016

Posted 4 March 2016 at 12:00 am

File photos by Tom Rivers – Joseph Cecchini, 11, of Medina cleans a cow on July 27, 2015 at a new wash rack at the 4-H Fairgrounds.

Press Release, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Orleans County

KNOWLESVILLE – The Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds will be the place to be this year.

The fairgrounds on Route 31 has experienced a steady increase in use over the past few years, but 2016 will be a banner year. The addition of 10 horse shows, a major dog show on Labor Day Weekend, and a Fiber Festival in November along with the return of existing horse, dog, & rabbit shows; the April Home & Garden Show; spring horse pull; and fall Christmas Antiques Show mean just about every weekend at the fairgrounds will be busy.

These activities will be held in addition to Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension’s educational programs in agriculture, horticulture, nutrition, food preservation, and 4-H youth development, which includes the annual Orleans County 4-H Fair held July 25-30 this year.

Teams of powerful draft horses, with participants from eight states, competed on April 25 last year at 4-H Fairgrounds in the “Pull of Champions.”

Community members are encouraged to view the schedule of Events at Orleans Extension’s website, cceorleans.org. Registration forms and contact information for event organizers are posted online and the website has a contact box to email questions directly to Extension staff. The website also includes a “Facility Use” page with registration forms and information for groups interested in using the grounds.

The fairgrounds was purchased in 1965 by Orleans Extension and its first building, the Trolley Building, was built in 1966. A majority of the funding for purchase and development of the fairgrounds was raised by 4-H volunteers, members, and their families along with donations primarily from farmers, business owners, and long-time residents.

In recent years, technology-centric companies such as Baxter and Xerox have contributed to the growing 4-H Robotics program and Extension staff has sought grant funding to maintain strong programs.

With the fairgrounds 50th anniversary in 2015, significant infrastructure improvements were made and continue as funding allows. The rabbit & poultry barn, named for the Wachob family, received a new floor, a new wash rack was installed near the cattle barn, and a fitness trail was established. The Trolley Building kitchen also received updates including a 3-bay sink, fire suppression hood and updated range oven, and commercial refrigerator.

During the Home and Garden Show last April, Cindy Smith, right, of Batavia eyes the wine choices by Vizcarra Vineyards at Becker Farms in Gasport. Mindy Vizcarra, left, served up wine tastings throughout the day, April 12, 2015.

In 2016, updates will continue with new plumbing, flooring, and stainless countertops and storage units. Orleans Extension has also requested $25,675 in grant funding to complete the kitchen update with commercial appliances, islands with prep sinks, and a stainless steel serving window, along with $250,000 from New York State for renovating the entire Trolley Building, which is estimated to cost a total of $350,000. Options are also being explored to upgrade the fairgrounds’ restroom and shower facilities, which could cost an additional $240,000.

Orleans Extension board member, Charlie Pettit, sees grant funding as a significant component to continuing fairgrounds renovation. The board has tasked Executive Director, Jennifer Wagester, with seeking funds and streamlining operations to make every dollar count.

Over the past two years, the Extension has implemented changes and renegotiated vendor contracts to save over $10,000 annually. These changes are allowing Extension to maintain services amidst rising costs.

Currently, about one third of Extension’s budget is supported by funding from the Orleans County Legislature, one third by state funding, and one third by funds raised by Extension through program participation fees, rental of the fairgrounds, winter storage, and fundraising by volunteers. Federal funding has increased in the past year from about $9,000 in Smith-Lever funds to over $50,000 with Orleans Extension’s participation in the federal Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program; however, it remains a small part of the overall budget.

John Steier and his son Evan haul tires on Oct. 8 at the new fitness trail at the 4-H Fairgrounds, which opened that day to the public.

The Orleans fairgrounds is one of three in the state that is owned and operated by a county Cornell Cooperative Extension association. The others are in Niagara and Orange Counties. While owning and operating a fairgrounds requires a major investment in infrastructure, it ensures the Orleans community has a facility for learning, gathering, and holding activities.

Extension staff are excited about the increase in use and look forward to introducing new people to 4-H, Extension, and Orleans County. If you or your organization is interested in using the fairgrounds or reserving a classroom or building, contact the Extension office at 585-798-4265 for details.

Staff are housed in the Education Center at the fairgrounds, which is open year round, and office hours are 8:30 am to 4:30 pm Monday through Friday.