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Fair officials have projects ready for $200K state grant

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 November 2016 at 3:37 pm
File photos by Tom Rivers: John Borello, left, and Ed Hilfiker, guitarists with The Who Dats, perform during the Orleans County 4-H Fair in this photo from July 2015. If the Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension is approved for a state grant, the main performing stage would shift to the Curtis Pavilion, rather than the temporary stage shown here.

File photos by Tom Rivers: John Borello, left, and Ed Hilfiker, guitarists with The Who Dats, perform during the Orleans County 4-H Fair in this photo from July 2015. If the Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension is approved for a state grant, the main performing stage would shift to the Curtis Pavilion, rather than the temporary stage shown here.

KNOWLESVILLE – In July, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the state would set aside $5 million to help county fairs with capital improvements. Each fair could receive up to $200,000 with the money awarded on a first come-first served basis.

Officials with the Orleans County Fair Committee and the Cornell Cooperative Extension have identified projects for the grant.

The state is expected to soon accept applications for the funds. Orleans has one of the most popular youth fairs in the state, and Robert Batt, a 4-H educator, is hopeful the fairgrounds in Knowlesville can secure a full $200,000 grant.

“It’s exciting for us because you don’t get money like this, for infrastructure and repairs,” Batt said. “Usually the grants go to a new building.”

The biggest project identified by Fair and Extension leaders is an upgrade to the performance stage at the Curtis Building. This is the building where the popular chicken barbecue happens every Thursday evening during fair week. The stage is also used to crown fair royalty and recognize 4-H’ers on Saturday, the last day of the fair.

Fair officials want to tear down the current pavilion stage and replace it with a larger performing area. The new stage would include changing rooms on the west end of the stage and east end would have two restroom and two shower-stall bathrooms as well as an exterior hand wash sink.

The project would also include an electrical upgrade in the pavilion and the installation of stage lighting.

The Extension and Fair Committee would like the stage to be improved so concerts, karaoke, the talent show and other performances could be at the Curtis Pavilion. Right now the fair has to pay to have a temporary stage set up with a tent and hundreds of chairs and bleachers. If the project goes forward, it would eliminate the need for stage and tent rental for the future at a savings of $2,500 per year.

“It’s going to have a long-lasting impact on the fairgrounds and hopefully make the building more useful for the entire community,” Batt said.

Emma Ambrose of Medina and other riders in the hunter hack event wait for their turns to compete at the fair in July 2015. The state grant, if approved for Orleans, would enlarge the horse arena.

Emma Ambrose of Medina and other riders in the hunter hack event wait for their turns to compete at the fair in July 2015. The state grant, if approved for Orleans, would enlarge the horse arena.

Other improvement projects identified with the $200,000 grant include:

• Trolley Building roof replacement

• Horse washrack replacement

• Paving of Fairgrounds “mainway” area

• Electrical: Addition of second leg for carnival camping off swine pavilion. Underground wire and leg of ten 30-foot spots south of creek for new 4-H camping

• Double the size of horse arena

If there is money remaining in the $200,000 grant, Batt said Fair leaders are looking to make over the bathrooms with fresh paint, some lighting repair and  new “safety mirrors.”

The fair would also like to replace ash trees that were removed this year with quick-growing shade trees.

The Fair Committee and Extension also would like upgrades to fairgrounds lighting, by replacing current lighting with LED. The group would like to replace all wiring with conduit, and possibly move lines underground to parking lots.

Cuomo announced on July 20 there would be $5 million available to county fairs. (The fairs have to pay for the projects and then get 100 percent reimbursed for the work.)

“Our county fairs are a vibrant part of New York’s culture and history and play an integral role in generating economic activity in communities across the state,” Cuomo said when he announced the grant opportunity. “By facilitating key infrastructural improvements and renovations at county fairs statewide, this funding will help ensure visitors come back year after year. I encourage fairs to put their best projects forward and apply this fall.”

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