Plans for moving the Montgomery County Fairgrounds from its Dayton home of more than 160 years “died about 10 times,” said Montgomery County Commissioner Dan Foley.
But on Saturday, officials brought to life the fairgrounds’ new location, which may also help revive Jefferson Twp.
“It took five years of pretty hard work,” Foley said during a groundbreaking ceremony. “But every time the idea died we regrouped.”
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Included in the first $15 million construction phase are climate-controlled buildings designed for year-round use, which should bring more opportunities to an often overlooked area of the county, said Jefferson Twp. Board of Trustees President Roy Mann.
“It’s the first time we’ve had something like this happen to us in quite a while,” Mann said. “The fairgrounds will be an anchor for the future development of Jefferson Twp.”
Events at the Dayton location typically have drawn 250,000 to 300,000 people a year, including up to 80,000 during the week of the county fair, according to the Montgomery County Agricultural Society, which hopes to boost those numbers with the new facilities about six miles to the west.
Many of the 200 gathered for the ceremony at the new Montgomery County Fairgrounds & Event Center site in Arthur O. Fisher Park on Saturday emphasized the positive in what has been for many a bittersweet transition from the longtime Dayton site.
“At first I was kind of ticked off that we are moving because we have so much history in Dayton and that was kind of like my home,” said Evie Keister, 16, Miamisburg.
Keister, the 2018 Montgomery County junior fair queen who joined 4-H at age 9 and began raising rabbits and poultry for show, said she had a change of heart and now believes the new locations is better positioned to attract more events and more people.
“It’s going to be really beautiful. We have so much nature around us and we have the pond,” she said. “With this amount of acreage, we have a lot of opportunities to build amazing things.”
On Saturday, a large tent stood on the park’s lawn as funnel cakes and frozen lemonade were served out of two smaller stands. Within a week, heavy equipment operators will start digging into the 65-acre site, said John Yancik, president of the agricultural society.
The new fairgrounds will also feature a campsite and parking for up to 1,400-1,500 vehicles, of which 500 spaces will be asphalt.
Barring an “unbelievably wet, wet, wet spring” the new fairgrounds and buildings should be completed in time for the 2018 fair July 9-14, Yancik said.
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