Growing pains

Fair board considers tourism grant to alleviate space shortage

TWIN BRIDGES -- After a somewhat tumultuous final draft of the Madison County Fairgrounds master plan, created by Great West Engineering, the fair board is hopefully moving forward with a recommendation. 

The board met in January to discuss the received draft regarding expansion of the fairgrounds; both the board and county commissioners were unhappy with the final results, noting errors and confusion within the draft. After addressing GWE with their complaints, Madison County Commission Chair Ron Nye said some had been addressed, but felt it was time to move forward. “We need a formal recommendation from the board before we can approve the master plan,” Nye said during an April 5 special meeting of the fair board at the fair office in Twin Bridges. 

Heather Puckett, the board’s newest member, asked if the master plan locked the board and county into anything. “We talked about developing those concession stands under the grandstands,” she said, noting it was missing from the document. “Is it a closed door if we don’t delineate it? Will it put a hitch in our giddy up later?” 

Jani Flinn with the commissioner’s office said the master plan was just a study documenting the discussion. 

The fair board, still having a few questions, mostly in regard to the grandstands, said they would finish their discussion during their April 19 meeting and hopefully give a recommendation to commissioners. 


Fighting for space

This year’s fair will see 141 pigs, according to early figures from Kacey Smart with the Livestock Sales Committee. Currently there are 102 pens available and, in order to house all of the pigs for the coming fair, at least 125 pens would be needed. Smart said siblings sometimes share pens. 

While the steer and lamb barns are sufficient for now, Smart and fellow committee member Chief Croy said those projects will need more space in the future. “This year it’s pigs, in the future it’s everything,” said Smart. “I think the goat project is going to grow,” added Puckett. 

With 120 days before the fair, a short-term fix is needed, and both the board and Nye said they think they can get by for this year. Nye presented to the board the option of applying for the Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development grant, which funds projects that develop and enhance tourism and recreation products. Craig Erikson, who worked on the master plan, said he felt strongly about applying for the grant, adding building a multi-purpose building that draws more people to Twin Bridges would be eligible for funding. 

Smart said she believes in being innovative and said a multi-purpose building, that could be used year-round, would be the biggest benefit to the fair. “You have to think 20 or 40 years down the road,” she said. “It makes more sense and there’s so much you could do with that.”

Commissioner Dan Allhands said growing the fair will help the economy of the county. 

If the board decides to move forward with the tourism grant, the grant cycle runs July 1 – September 30, Flinn suggested getting a grant in early. The grant is expected to have approximately $700,000-$800,000 available for funding projects, and if selected, projects have a 12-month window to be completed.  

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