The county fair season is underway and, since it is always hot and humid in late July and early August, you can count on people turning out -- record heat and drought or not.
The Sharp County Fair, which ran July 23 to 28, drew good crowds to its events this year, including beauty pageants which are held outdoors. The big news this year was the fact people who spent hours at pageants, livestock events and the midway had a place to go and cool off.
A community fundraising effort begun in 2011 by Sharp County Extension Homemakers and Master Gardeners was successful, and just--in--time.
In early July, "Air for the Fair" supporters gathered to flip the switch -- turning on a central air conditioning system in the Education Building, which was filled with exhibits and business booths during the fair.
The evening we visited, the building was nice and cool, and a lot of people commented on how great it was to have a spot to get out of the heat.
While the Education Building is always a popular destination because of all it offers, it is a lot more enjoyable to visit now. People say it used to be like an oven in there, often hotter than outside.
Air conditioning will also play a role in the Fulton County Fair, which begins its run on Aug. 6. Fair Manager Carolyn Lewis has been scheming to get air conditioning installed in the Theater Building at the fairgrounds.
When hoped--for grant money didn't come through, Lewis went to Plan B. $10,000 from Rep. Lori Benedict's legislative fund, originally offered to support a planned addition to the Hickinbotham-Miller Exhibit Building, was moved to the Theater Building project, and the fair board borrowed about $10,000 more.
The board agreed with Lewis that air conditioning is vital to protecting the popularity of the fair week beauty pageants the building hosts. The hot, outdated building was seen as the main reason participation and attendance at the pageants has slipped in recent years.
So, in a project also timed to be completed by fair week, the interior walls of the steel building got a good coat of foam insulation. A used Fulton County Hospital air handler and three air conditioning units -- two used and one brand new -- were added. Theater Building events will be a lot more pleasurable during fair week.
While they were at it, the fair board also remodeled restrooms and the backstage dressing room.
The building, which will get even more improvements as money is raised, will now be suitable to rent for family reunions, business conferences and other events year round, since the improvements included heating as well as a/c.
Lewis has already had success renting the Theater Building, to people who have called to find the popular Hickinbotham-Miller Building was rented on the dates they wanted to use.
In the long run, the Sharp and Fulton County projects should help pay for themselves. The Sharp County Education Building also had a furnace added, to allow for year-round rentals.
The Izard County Fair, which was revived last year, is ready to roll out its 2012 edition. It will run Aug. 7 to 11.
Talking about improvements: There appears to be a lot of modern day truth to that old adage that you have to spend money to make money.
As I mentioned a while back, the north side of the Salem Square looks great, as building owners and tenants have painted and fixed up buildings, inside and out.
Now, the revitalization fever has spread to the east side of the square. The Groovy Little Flower Shop's big awning has gotten a groovy new look with the addition of bright blue roofing metal. The two buildings at the end of the block have been painted a nice tannish color, and the end building, which last housed Hair on the Square, is to get an awning similar to the flower shop's.
|AK Salon and Boutique, next to the flower shop, has already spruced its building up, and I'm told Dr. Guy Smith is on the list for a paint job on his building.|
Sam Rossitto and James Watkins get a gold star for doing most of the work, in very unpleasant (hot!) conditions.
Mayor Gary Clayton mentioned at the July 26 Salem City Council meeting that, in June, there was a $1,400 increase in sales tax compared with June of last year. He credits the continued revitalization on the square and the new businesses that have moved in with giving a boost to the city economy.
Let's keep it up.