New volunteer board for Benton County Fairgrounds almost in place

By Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldNovember 12, 2012 

The new volunteer board aimed at guiding future improvements at the 126-acre Benton County Fairgrounds will begin meeting in January.

County officials interviewed nine applicants to fill the five Fairgrounds Improvement Board seats, and county commissioners are expected to sign off on the finalists in the next few weeks.

The applicants represented a cross-section of people with interest in the fairgrounds -- from local business owners to members of groups such as 4-H, county officials said. All live within the county.

County commissioners created the citizen-based board this summer. Chairman Jim Beaver said Thursday that it will be similar to the county Park Board, which weighs in on county parks improvements.

"It's being put together to see if we can't build a better fairgrounds," he said, adding it will help with his goal of more long-range planning for the county.

The county owns the fairgrounds off South Oak Street. It's the biggest venue in the county, with four pavilion buildings, an arena and several barns and other structures.

It's known as the home of the annual Benton Franklin Fair & Rodeo, which drew more than 120,000 people during its five-day run in August. The county doesn't put on the event; it's run by a nonprofit fair association.

Other groups also lease space at the fairgrounds for events throughout the year. John Donley, fairgrounds office manager, estimated about 50 are held there each year in addition to the fair, from wedding receptions to swap meets to a Christmas show.

The Fairgrounds Improvement Board will hold meetings every other month, with the sessions open to the public. Board members will serve two-year terms.

-- Sara Schilling: 582-1529;

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