Fair Board town hall meeting

“You need a plan.”

Carole Mercer of Eagle Point challenged the Jackson County Fair Board to develop a plan of action to solve what many are calling a “crisis” with regards to the Jackson County Fair.

Mercer was unceremoniously told that the exchange between her and Board Chair, Chris Smith, was over. But Mercer was not alone in her appeal to the board to develop a plan. Many in the crowd of perhaps 200 concerned citizens echoed the sentiments of Mercer. Without a plan, she added, you end up nowhere.

Many sited as the reason it seems to flounder is the lack of a publicized plan for the Jackson County Fair. Paid admissions during 2013 was just slightly over 19,000, many short of the glory days of just a few years ago. But on the positive side, the Fair actually made money in 2013. Still, most news reports have called attention to a $300,000 deficit, without putting those figures in perspective. Jackson County has made this into a crisis situation, but the figure is relatively small when placed in its proper context. While it is true that the Fair has operated at a deficit, it is small in comparison to a number of county programs which cost taxpayers money, but return nothing to county coffers. The actual figure might be somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.50 per resident—a small price to pay for the premier County Fair in the entire state.

One of the complaints during the August 8 meeting was that Fair Manager Dave Koellermeier came to the Junior Livestock Committee just after the 2012 fair asking for help. He and the Board requested that the Junior Livestock Committee fund a study by Bruce Sorte, OSU economist, on the financial impact to Jackson County. Gary Bedell, who had originally requested the town hall meeting, chastised the board for not waiting for the report before attempting to make the Fair into a four-day event. Ron Anderson made an impassioned plea to retain the six day schedule for several reasons, including the shipping of cattle at peak condition.

Anderson and others recounted how the Fair Board had held similar meetings many years ago, and for the same reasons. Again, the emphasis being on developing a plan for the fair.

Smokey’s Playhouse was another issue, brought up by Barry Hoffman, who was involved in the original construction. Hoffman said that the playhouse was dismantled when the Amphitheater was installed. Since then, The Fair has been increasingly about adults with little place for children. His assumption was that change made for the difference in fair attendance.

During the course of the evening, someone suggested, and the board agreed, that another town-hall meeting was needed to check on the Board’s progress in developing and implementing a plan of action. That meeting will probably be during the month of February.

Those who were unable to attend the meeting can send comments via email to Jim@project8.com.

The major topics brought to the Board during the evening were the seeming disconnect between the Board and the residents, the lack of communication with the public and the fact the Board appears divided. None of these are major obstacles. However, they must be overcome and it must be done in the near future.



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