- Associated Press - Sunday, June 8, 2014

WEST LIBERTY, Iowa (AP) - There’s a lot more to the Muscatine County Fair than cotton candy and cattle.

To begin with, there’s over 150 years of history.

Now, fair organizers are hoping to build on the fair’s past as a way to help build a better future for the county-wide community event - and if they can match a $360,000 donation, they’ll be well on their way.

The Muscatine Journal reports (https://bit.ly/1maHDQN ) the fairgrounds will be seeing renovations in the future, and thanks to the Kent Corp., those renovations may come sooner than later.

The Muscatine County Fair could get a $360,000 donation over the next five years for construction of new facilities and repairs on existing buildings from Muscatine-based Kent Corp., provided matching funds can be raised.

“The Kent donation specifically is designated for the livestock facilities at the fairgrounds and the number-one thing on our list is the swine pavilion, which houses our hogs during the fair. It’s a unique structure and was built in 1917 or 1918,” said Tim Nichols, project lead of the Muscatine County Fair board.

Nichols said that while the Kent donation is for the livestock facilities, money from fundraising and private donations will be used for other projects to help make the fair a viable and sustainable event in the community.

The structural improvement campaign is part of an ambitious, five-year plan to preserve and maintain new and existing buildings on the fairgrounds.

“The fair is our premiere event at the fairgrounds, but we’d like to increase activity and let people be a part of our fairgrounds. Going down this route and preserving some of the structures and adding that character back in will increase our uniqueness and bring more people in to enjoy it,” said Nichols.

In a news release from Kent Corp., company CEO Gage Kent said that “while the county fairgrounds are an important piece of history … the usefulness of new and renovated facilities will help continue a strong agriculture tradition.”

Lisa Wertzbaugher, a member on the Muscatine County Historic Preservation Commission, said the process has already begun to determine whether the fairgrounds can be designated a historic district.

“The federal government sets the criteria and (one of) their criteria says the buildings need to be 50 years or older. Right now, upon initial assessment, possibly half of the buildings qualify. If the fairground gets listed, any building that hits 50 years will be included,” said Wertzbaugher.

The fairgrounds have already been given two grants by the state of Iowa to hire a preservation historian and a preservation architect to assess the fairgrounds and make recommendations. It will take between 12 to 18 months to collect necessary documents, photographs, written history, newspaper articles and to put together a report to submit to the federal government, and Wertzbaugher said that process began in April.

“In the meantime, we’re moving forward since we’ve already received private donations,” said Wertzbaugher.

“The swine building is in most dire need but we will also be doing work on the amphitheater and the home life’s building,” said Lori Gosenberg, fair secretary and manager.

As for the Kent Corp. donation, which will require coming up with matching funds to secure it, two fundraisers have been put together to begin the process.


Information from: Muscatine Journal, https://www.muscatinejournal.com

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