Wednesday, October 26, 2022

WSDA awards $8 million to improve fairgrounds across the state

Brand new animal pens awaiting
assembly at the Evergreen State Fair.
Amber Betts
WSDA Communications

Prize-winning hog, best-in-show apple pie, blue-ribbon stuffed chicken, and the area’s largest squash are some of the awards seen at your local fair. You know the one? Yes, you do.

The moment you think of the local fair you begin to smell the scones, elephant ears, the animal barns, and the unique atmosphere of fun, comradery, and family. However, you might also remember the aging facilities, the concrete block bathrooms that have seen better days, and the bleachers that are somehow, still standing.

Capital improvement grants to the rescue

Washington State Department of Agriculture and the Washington State Legislature recognize the importance of Washington’s fairgrounds. During the pandemic, county fairs were used as vaccination centers; during wildfires, fairs are used to shelter people and livestock; and during the summer months, fairs educate the public about the importance of agriculture in our lives and to our state’s economy.

Arena at the Ferry County fairgrounds. 
 Since 2003, the legislature has helped fairs in their mission by awarding around $2 million each biennium for health and safety improvements to fairgrounds and facilities. In 2021, they emphasized the importance by awarding a whopping $8 million, enabling us to fund 78 projects across the state.

Fair organizers were able to submit applications for projects equal to or less than $250,000, for capital improvements.

What is a capital improvement?

A capital improvement is addition of a structural change or restoration of some part of the property that will improve the health and safety of fair goers.

Pierce County fairgrounds project.
What were the projects?

WSDA is funding 78 projects at fairs across the state.  Some projects are large and are part of even larger projects on their grounds. The smallest grant awarded was $5,500 for the installation of new sheep pens and barricades at the Pierce County Fair. To date, 15 projects are complete. Most of the rest are on track to be complete by May 31, 2023.

Projects include upgrades to electrical systems, upgrades to ventilation and filtration systems, replacing drain fields for restrooms, remodeling or constructing restrooms, repairing asphalt on fairgrounds, upgrades to livestock barns and ag buildings, reroofing, adding heating and air conditioning, and many others.

 If the legislature chooses to include funding to the fairs program in the next capital budget, the program will distribute grant applications for fairs next July. Check our website for future grants and for the full list of 2021-23 grant recipients.