FREMONT, Mich. — The association behind the annual Newaygo County Fair are working to raise money in order to complete an expansion project that is meant to make the fairgrounds more sustainable.
Typically, the fairgrounds out in Fremont fill up with thousands of people in mid-August. Sadly, in 2020 they were only able to hold a small piece of the fair— quickly organizing a livestock sale, while all other aspects had to be canceled because of the pandemic.
But even before COVID-19 brought it's own unique challenges for the fair association, they were already starting to look at updating their fairgrounds, which have been in use since the late 1950s.
"We’ve realized that our grandstands and our main arena has become a little outdated... We have a short pulling track, compared to modern requirements," said Charlie McKinley, Vice President of the Newaygo County Fair Association.
"We’re looking to modernize our arena, almost double the capacity of the stands and create a pulling track that will bring in those super modified tractors and trucks, to safely operate and give a great show to our fair goers."
Before the Newaygo County Fair kicks off in mid-August, there will be two tractor pulls hosted to help raise the money needed to update the fairgrounds.
“The grandstands here, we will pack it full, standing room only," said Ben Wolfsen, the association's superintendent for truck and tractor pulls.
"There have been some years where we've actually had to turn people away.”
The full list of updates will cost somewhere near a million dollars.
"We ran the numbers about three years ago— It was about 6, 7 hundred thousand dollars," McKinley explained Wednesday.
"We're well aware of construction costs that have gone up in the last year. We're anticipating to finish this project, we're going to need another 6 or 8 hundred thousand, maybe even a million dollars even to get it done."
They have already completed other pieces of the project— like a $90,000 electrical project recently wrapped up.
These updates are meant to create a more sustainable fairground, making sure it's available to area families for years to come. Families like the Muraskes have been attending the fair as part of 4-H for years.
“It's taught me so many life lessons, to balance working with animals, and feeding animals, with schools and other basic chores,” said Gracie Muraske.
Her sister Fawn added, "I only have this year and next year left [of 4-H], so I'd love to be able to, in my last couple of years here, have the fair be what I'd like it to become."
The events planned to raise funds are scheduled for July 10 and Aug. 7 at the Newaygo County Fairgrounds.
You can see a full schedule of events for the 2021 Newaygo County Fair at their website HERE.