New Cass County Fair Board in Pine River comes through
This year's fair was just a sign of work to come.
Event planners were stuck in the lurch for much of the last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, until state officials gave the go-ahead for large events and gatherings again.
In spite of the wait and having mostly new board members, the Cass County Fair in Pine River had a triumphant return last week after a one-year hiatus. Fair Board President Rhonda Adkins said there was a surprising number of fairgoers on opening day, Thursday, June 24.
"Which was surprising for being a Thursday night," Adkins said. "It's been wonderful that way. Then we got lots of questions about the Baja (Rally) and the bands and the beer gardens."
" We're looking at hopefully doing some historical stuff in the horse building and maybe getting some grants so we can keep that building the same as it is. That's one of the oldest buildings on the fairgrounds. "
— Rhonda Adkins.
Adkins said while 4-H show registration was down, open class registration numbers were higher than normal.
To make the job even more challenging, during the fair board's October reorganizational meeting, nearly the entire board stepped aside for new organizing members. Only Adkins and Co-treasurer Teri McAllister remained on the board, and McAllister had taken a year off the board before rejoining.
"There were quite a few members that have been on the board for a long time and they decided to resign," Adkins said. "As for the rest of the board, I have no idea what made them decide to leave."
Cancellation of last year's fair and fundraising events, combined with uncertain COVID-19 safety guidelines in the first half of 2021, put this year's event in jeopardy. But the new board members threw quite a bash complete with live music in a new band shell.
The new board inherited a lot of work too with many buildings and utilities needing repairs.
"Being a new fair board has been a little bit of a struggle," Adkins said. "Being in the COVID period of time, as far as getting the fair ready, was kind of on the balance beam for a while. When we did get the go-ahead, we were able to get some programs going."
The board oversaw the construction of a new band shell and renovation of the open class building. One historic livestock building will be the target of future fundraising and grant writing efforts.
"We're looking at hopefully doing some historical stuff in the horse building and maybe getting some grants so we can keep that building the same as it is. That's one of the oldest buildings on the fairgrounds," Adkins said.
In addition, the 4-H building on the fairgrounds will require major renovations, possibly including a partial demolition.
"We're looking at renovating that building," Adkins said. "We can't restore (all of) that building because of its trusses and foundation."
The board has been talking about the building for five years. Board members hope to incorporate improvements when it is rebuilt.
"We'd like to work with some new sustainable solar panels and some engineering since it's 4-H, and 4-H is looking at STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs. That's what we're hoping for," Adkins said.
The fair board will also look at replacing and improving electrical hookups and other utilities.
"We're rewiring to better set it up for our carnival and for our food vendors to make sure they have 50 amps," Adkins said. "We may be looking at renovating some water lines and doing some shower houses so we can have more events on the grounds like horse shows and livestock shows, not just during the fair but all through the summer."
All these plans require funding, so the board will seek donations and host fundraising efforts in the coming year. Adkins said they are happy to accept donations for any of the programs or projects. They will also host fundraising meals at the Backus American Legion as well as 50/50 boards.
"We're working really hard now to do lots of our own fundraising besides looking for grants," Adkins said.
Fair board members are Adkins, Vice President Brenda Foster, Secretary Shelby Mondry, Treasurer Katrina Adkins, Co-treasurer Teri McAllister, Austin McAllister, Juanita Dice, Jesse Thomes and Chris Thomes. Also important to the fair were volunteers Gabrielle Schmidt and Rosie Kuschel.
"If anyone wants to come to our board meetings, they are the third Monday of every month at the Backus American Legion," Adkins said. "Anyone who wants to volunteer or who has some ideas or suggestions can come to that meeting or send me an email at email@example.com. We will always take great ideas and as many volunteers and donations as we can."
Travis Grimler is a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper in Pequot Lakes/Pine River. He may be reached at 218-855-5853 or firstname.lastname@example.org.