Storm damage, ticketing changes discussed at State Fair Commission

Peggy Besch

HURON – Strong winds accompanying two storms, the latest one last week that dumped two feet of snow on Huron, collapsed about 100 stalls near the Hippodrome on the state fairgrounds and rebuilding them must be done before the city once again hosts the National Junior High Finals Rodeo in June, State Fair Manager Peggy Besch said Tuesday.
Although it would be less expensive, renting stalls for the rodeo isn’t practical because they’re needed for other events, she said in answer to a question at a meeting of the State Fair Commission.
“We use those stalls all the time,” Besch said.
In the two-hour session, she briefed commission members on other maintenance and repair projects scheduled for this summer, and provided an update on a whole host of goals they identified in an earlier strategic planning session.
Joining commissioners on Tuesday was Kim Vanneman, South Dakota’s new secretary of agriculture. She is co-owner and operator of Vanneman Farms of Ideal, a diversified farming operation.
She said like other South Dakotans, she had no idea so many off-season events were held on the state fairgrounds each year.
“I was just excited about that,” she said.
She said the commission should be proud of the State Fair staff. Chairman Dusty Anderson said the staff does a great job, but one concern the board has at times is how thinly they are stretched.
Planning is well underway for this year’s fair. There is a higher number of vendor openings because some long-time vendors have decided to retire. But new vendors who have never been here before, with new food offerings, are coming to Huron.
With camping sites filling up, there is once again a need for private homes for vendors and judges.
Meanwhile, the commission is moving forward with a significant change in gate admission by instituting an Etix ticketing system. Scanning will take the place of wristbands except for camping packets.
State Fair officials will issue press releases and explain the changes on social media prior to the fair.
Volunteers are once again needed to help with the National Junior High Finals Rodeo. Wheel Jam, set for the end of May, will not feature stock car races, but there will be a Knock Out Martial Arts event at the Nordby Exhibit Hall.
Besch said they continue to seek a race promoter, but so far have had no luck. “If we can’t find a race promoter, we need to look at other opportunities for the grandstand,” she said.
In another major change, livestock trailers will now be parked at the Huron Continental Market, formerly known as Bales Continental Commission, on the west side of Huron.
There will be free car parking on the large lot at Seventh Street and Nevada Avenue Southwest, now owned by the state. Commissioners had considered renting an eight-passenger golf cart to shuttle people between the lot and the fairgrounds.
But it is only about three blocks, much closer than most people find places to park, so they will forego the shuttle idea for now.
At their strategic planning session, commissioners also discussed other parking issues, deciding there would be no tolerance on parking violations.
In other projects scheduled for this year, the restrooms at the Family Living Center are currently being renovated, including new paint, flooring, plumbing and partitions.
“That shows up on our complaints every year so it will be nice to have those bathrooms done,” Besch said.
Plans for electrical upgrades at the 4-H livestock complex, swine complex, Women’s Building and other facilities are on hold because only one bid, much higher than expected, was received. State engineers are considering separating the work into smaller projects and extending the timeline in hopes of attracting more bidders.
But it appears the work won’t get done before the State Fair, Besch said.
Renovations at the Grandstand are continuing, although the project has been delayed every time it snows, she said. The main work is to be completed by the end of May.
A project to replace the sheep barn with a multi-use facility is in the design stage. Besch said it would be ideal if a specific plan is available by fair time so fundraising could get underway once it’s known what is feasible.
Bids to repair leaks in the Open Class Beef Complex also came back higher than anticipated so that has been delayed. Sandblasting and painting inside the building is also on hold pending roof repairs.
Two new sets of bleachers are being purchased in an ongoing effort to replace existing ones.
Other work to be done includes painting in the rabbit barn and painting bathrooms and making repairs in the Tech Center.
Energy-efficient light-emitting diodes (LED) lighting is being installed in one building at a time.

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