A dream come true: Holmes County opens new fairgrounds

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MILLERSBURG, Ohio — Years of planning, determination, hard work and nearly $8 million in donations came to fruition Aug. 8, as Holmes County opened its new fairgrounds — called Harvest Ridge.

The grounds have been a dream for decades, after the previous fair, which was located in a floodway, battled flooding on an almost annual basis, at times threatening to jeopardize the safety and wellbeing of the fairgoers and animals.

But not anymore

Fair Board President Kerry Taylor, who led the project to relocate, said there will be more floods in the future. But because the new grounds is built on a much higher elevation, flooding will not be an issue.

“I’m here to tell you: The Holmes County Fair never has to worry about another flood again!” Taylor said.

He made the announcement with such enthusiasm that he reminded the crowd that he was not Donald Trump — the outspoken political candidate running for president.

Cleaning up

But Taylor’s enthusiasm isn’t hard to understand. He and many other fair volunteers have spent hundreds of hours at the old grounds — cleaning up year-after-year from flood damage — never knowing if a big one might hit during the fair.

The flooding made it impossible to hold year-round events as other area fairs do, and the fair was losing out.

The answer was easy — move the fair someplace higher. But finding that place, and the resources to develop it — took years of planning, overcoming setbacks — and some good fortune that you might also say was predestined.

Many gifts

The move got its biggest boost in 2011, when Weaver Leather CEO Paul Weaver announced his intent to donate the land to the fair, in exchange for running utilities to the property.

Cutting the ribbon
Fair officials cut the ribbon on the new grounds.

It was an 80-plus acre gift, but it was also just the beginning. By working with state Rep. Dave Hall, R-Millersburg, and other local and state leaders, the fair was able to secure two $500,000 capital appropriations grants.

In all, the project has raised about $7.8 million in funds, grants or donations. One of the most unique came from the late Sterling Humrichouser, who willed the fair a portion of his estate, totaling about $1 million.

Taylor recalled visiting with Humrichouser, and learning of the gift, just 10 days before Humrichouser died. His gift was used to build the Humrichouser Livestock Building — a large multi-species building with modern fans and ventilation.

Taylor complimented the fair board, junior fair board, and hundreds of businesses and volunteers who helped with the project. He also thanked former fair secretary Lula Lang, who died in May 2013, and was a supporter of the new grounds.

Tenacious leader

The evening ceremony was emceed by local radio and online personality Mark Lonsinger, who has worked with fair officials to promote the project. Lonsinger said Taylor’s leadership was exceptional — even during tough times.

“His tenacity, determination and refusal to accept anything less than realizing that dream coming true … is the primary reason that we are here today,” Lonsinger said.

The fairgrounds will continue to evolve over the next few years, as more funds come in, and more tents are replaced with buildings. But the foundation is set.

“The foundation is strong, the effort is living and breathing and the dream of having a new fairgrounds in Holmes County has come true,” Lonsinger said. “Celebrate it — enjoy it.”

Taylor, whose day job is running a local electric and appliance business called Millersburg Electric, thanked everyone involved, and reminded the youth to be good stewards of their new fair — so it will serve them for generations to come.

The fair continues through Aug. 13, and is located just west of Millersburg and the old fairgrounds, off state Route 39.

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