Fair Association wants to buy county fairgrounds
By Jessie Burchette
Bolstered by good attendance, the Rowan County Fair Association is ready to make the county an offer to buy the fairgrounds on Julian Road.
Johnny Love, fair manager, said Monday that Fair Association directors have voted to buy the property, or possibly other county-owned property that would be suitable for a fair.
The Fair Association, a nonprofit organization made up of the Spencer and Faith Jaycees, operated the fairgrounds for 50 years. The lease expired in November 2007.
The Fair Association now rents the fairgrounds for the month of September. At other times, the Rowan County Tourism Development Authority promotes and rents the property, with the fee going to the county.
Love declined to say how much money the association will offer until its attorney prepares a letter and delivers it to the county.
“We plan to make what we believe is a fair offer,” Love said Monday.
The 68-acre tract that includes the fairgrounds is valued on the county’s books at $2.6 million. That incudes $1.2 million for the building and $1.4 million for land, or approximately $20,000 per acre.
County officials have said previously that the land is best suited for a major retail or industrial site, estimating it could bring $100,000 to $200,000 an acre in the near future.
The Fair Association directors have also looked at other properties, including a tract on Heilig Road near the intersection with Faith Road.
“Our first choice is the fairgrounds on Julian Road,” Love said. It would be easier to use existing buildings, he said, instead of starting from scratch. He added that the fairgrounds “haven’t cost the taxpayers any money.”
Love said the association hopes the county will handle the financing if the two sides are able to strike a deal.
Overall attendance for the fair, which ran Sept. 15-20, topped 36,000. That included paid attendance as well as tickets given to school children and others.
Around 17,000 paid to attend the fair, about 1,000 less than last year. Love blamed that on a rainy Tuesday that week.
“Without rain, we would have done better,” he said. “I’m not complaining. We didn’t lose money.”
Figures on the amount of money collected from gate receipts were not immediately available. The fair ran two discount promotions reducing the standard $7 adult admission for those who brought canned food to donate to Rowan Helping Ministries.The fair collected 1,400 pounds of food for the ministry.
The fair and Powers Great American Midway also collected some counterfeit money ó $20 and $100 bills ó during fair week.
Love said the bills looked real, but apparently had a different feel.