The old Quonset hut building on the Stafford County Fairgrounds came tumbling down in late September. It had served as the main building for exhibits at the Stafford County Fair since the 1950s.
Once upon a time, that building was state-of-the-art. It was a new enclosed space with a concrete floor, showers in the restrooms and giant electric fans that kept the air moving as fairgoers perused hundreds of 4-H projects.
|Stafford County Fair photo
But "state of the art: becomes "state of deterioration" in 70 years. The steel framed-round top building began to leak. The bathrooms were out of date. And those overhead fans had been replaced by floor fans, hoping to alleviate a little discomfort on hot July fair days. Judging for things like foods, photography and arts and crafts were moved several years ago to the air-conditioned comfort of the Stafford Recreation Commission.
But change is coming to the Stafford County Fair. The board is in the process of adding a new building on the fairgrounds in Stafford.
The old building was kind of like the "background music" of the fair. It was there, but it didn't take center stage. The important part wasn't the building, but the 4-Hers who were "built" there. Those 4-Hers included my family. Randy was a Stafford County 4-Her back
in the 1960s and '70s. Jill and Brent spent their fair share of time as
4-Hers there, too. Though it wasn't my "home" fair, it became my 4-H
home as a 4-H leader, parent and volunteer.
But the old had to make way for the new. In late September, the walls of the old building were pulled down.
|Photos by Jeanette Hildebrand, September 25, 2023
Last year, when I was writing about selling Melvin and Marie's house, I
realized that I didn't have a lot of photos of the house itself. Lots of
important memories were made at that house, but the dwelling itself
didn't show up in a lot of photographs.
|Buyer ribbons from a Stafford County Fair hung on the peg board in the fairgrounds extension "office."
The same can be said of the 4-H building. When I looked through Jill's and Brent's 4-H books, I found a lot of photos. There were a few that were taken in the building.
|Photos courtesy of the fair's fundraising committee
The 4-H program will still have that same goal: Building productive, successful people. But there will be a new building to use for those efforts. It's exciting for the 4-H program AND for the community.
|This is just a facsimile of what the building will look like. It will match the colors of others buildings already on the fairgrounds.
Billy Milton, Stafford County Fair Board president, said in an article published by Stafford County Economic Development: “We started looking into fixing the roof and got back an estimate that was going to cost between $30,000 to $40,000 to fix and that in 10 to 20 years, we’d have to do it again. We did not feel like that was the right area to pursue. It doesn’t make sense for us to be spend that much money. Our budget just is not that big to operate like that.”
Using $250,000 in funds that was available to Stafford County to help stimulate the economy after the Covid pandemic, Milton said, the fair board was able to begin the process of replacing the old building. The money was awarded by Stafford County Commissioners with the stipulation it be spent by the summer of 2024. The construction will be more like a Morton-style building.
The fair board has partnered with Stafford County Economic Development to raise an additional $275,000 to pay for the building’s amenities – such as heating and air conditioning, a concession stand area with stove and refrigerator and showers in the restrooms.
“The rest of it will be open for meetings, wedding receptions and reunions,” Milton said. “We entered into a fiscal sponsorship agreement with Stafford County Eco-Devo because our organization is not a 501-C nonprofit so that when people donate, they can still get the tax breaks and save a little bit of money with sales tax also.”
We still volunteer for the fair and for the 4-H program itself. And old habits die hard: We still enter things in open class.
|Randy often entered wheat at the Stafford County Fair.
Last summer, Kinley and Brooke were here during the Stafford County Fair and they got a taste of a small-town fair.
People wanting to donate to the new building fund can do so by sending a check to the Stafford County Economic Development Office at P.O Box 233 at St. John, KS, 67576, or by calling 620-549-3527. The checks can be made to Stafford County Eco-Devo with the words “Community Fair Building” in the memo portion of the check. Donation levels include: Grand Champion level at $80,000 and up; Reserve Champion, $50,000 to $80,000; Champion, $20,000 to $49,000; Reserve, $10,000 to $19,000; Purple, $2,000 to $9,999; Blue, $500 to $1,999; Other and Add a Brick, $200 to $350.
Stafford County Eco-Devo or the Stafford County Extension Office can mail you a copy of the brochure, if you'd like one.
|Kinley at her first Stafford County Fair, 2012. Now she and Brooke are 4-Hers in Shawnee County!
Randy and I have given money toward the project, and we'd like to encourage others to do the same.
If you're local, here's another tasty way you can be part of the fundraising efforts:
The old building may not be there any longer. But with the help of donors, I certainly hope the growth and experiences that have always been part of the 4-H program will continue far into the future.