And if the Fayette County Fairboard’s efforts prove effective, Brownstown residents will be getting accustomed to the sounds of country music echoing out of the fairgrounds as well.
The board is stepping up efforts to schedule events at the fairgrounds as often as possible, with concerts being the centerpiece of their efforts. Non-fair events have been few and far between in the past.
“We have the space why not utilize it?” board member Kelly Washburn said. “It’s also something fun for people to do locally.”
And having something fun to do at the fairgrounds throughout the summer could also help the fair board’s efforts to ensure there is even more fun stuff to do once the summer’s showcase event comes up in July.
With state funding dwindling, the board is looking for ways to generate revenue to finance the Fayette County Fair. And several projects are either underway or in the works.
In addition to the weekly stockcar racing schedule, remote-control car racing now takes place at the fairgrounds at the Slideways Raceway, which has constructed a track in an unused horse barn on the south end of the fairgrounds.
“It’s starting to help,” said Fayette County Fair Board President Steve Behrends of the revenue created by the racetracks.
Revenues from a growing list of concert dates could also prove beneficial.
The board’s efforts on that front started with a show featuring up-and-coming country singer-songwriter Drew Baldridge last September.
Stormy weather nearly forced the concert to be moved to Brownstown High School and hurt attendance, but the event still made a profit and generated enough positive feedback to encourage Washburn to put on more shows in the future.
“Considering the weather, we were very happy with how it turned out,” Washburn said. “A lot of people commented that they were glad we did it and would like to do it again.”
The next concert date will be May 3 when country artist Chris Cavanaugh will headline a triple-bill that includes the duo of Sheena Flowers and Justin Lowder, and local talent Chandler Durbin.
Like Baldridge, Cavanaugh is a Nashville up-and-comer who is approaching 8,000 Facebook likes. Flowers used to play with Baldridge, and Lowder is a former member of the highly-regarded band Whiskey Dixon.
The 16-year-old Durbin will open the 7 p.m. show. He is the son of Jack and Dorothy Durbin of Brownstown and Troy and Sara Frutiger of Clay City.
Country music will be a centerpiece of the fair as well.
Clayton Anderson will play on the main stage on Friday night, July 18, as part of a weeklong slate of events that board members are hoping will be a big improvement over last year’s schedule.
Anderson’s 2011 record Torn Jeans and Tailgates climbed to No. 12 on the iTunes Country Chart, situating itself next to household names like Zac Brown, Brad Paisley and Blake Shelton. Anderson has opened for some of country’s biggest stars, including Shelton, Jason Aldean, Eric Church, Darius Rucker and Jimmy Buffett.
Last year’s fair was marred by the absence of a carnival, as the amusement company that was initially booked back out and there wasn’t time to find a replacement.
But H&H Amusement, which recently came to Pioneer Days in Cowden, has been booked this year and remains committed to come to Brownstown.
Armbands will be sold every night so that fairgoers can maximize their carnival experience.
“That’s a plus,” board member Mona Durbin said. “ Some carnivals won’t do an armband every night.”
Other grandstand events will include the annual Miss and Little Miss Fayette County pageants, a tractor pull and rodeo.
Behrends said that the board is still looking to schedule an event to close out the fair on Saturday night. A talent show, mixed martial arts or kickboxing event are among the possibilities.
New wiring in the livestock barns should enhance the 4-H activities as well.
Behrends also said there would be a possible “barnyard scramble” event, where participants would be able to keep any rabbits or chickens they manage to track down.
“We’re always looking for new ideas,” said Behrends, who has been involved with the fair for 22 years. “Right after the fair ended last year, we started thinking of new ideas and activities.”
Coming up with ideas isn’t the problem. Finding a way to make them a reality is. And money and time are almost always the issue.
“I don’t think a lot of people realize that with our fair board, none of them are paid positions — they are all volunteers,” Durbin said. “And 80 to 90 percent are full-time employed. When you work full time and volunteer, it’s a lot to have on your plate.
“I feel we have a good board. For the most part, everybody’s come together to improve our fair and fairgrounds. A lot of people compare us to the bigger fairs, but we just can’t do some of the things they do.”
Durbin noted that most of the fair’s funding has come from state premium reimbursement and rehab money, but the percentage received from both of those sources has decreased dramatically in recent years.
Which is why scheduling events around fair week has become just as important as the fair itself.
“We’re trying to get more going on in the summer,” Behrends said. “We’d like to eventually have something out here every weekend if we can all summer.”