Several longtime, familiar faces on the Washington County Fair Board have decided the last county fair was likely also their last.
As the board jumps into preparations for the 2013 fair, those who are no longer there expressed good wishes for existing board members and explained why they left.
Among past fair board members who stepped down from their volunteer positions this fall were Steve Tornes, who served 21 years; Loren Ewing, eight years; Bonnie Gill, 10 years; David Tornes, 10 years; and Brandan Wheeler, four years.
SHARON BOPP The Marietta Times
Fair Board President Paul Barth stands outside the multi-purpose building at the Washington County fairgrounds Thursday. The fair board has some new faces and this fall several longtime members decided to step down.
In addition, Ronald Swisher, who served for two years, and Angela Tucker, a one-year member, resigned from the fair board.
Steve Tornes, who had most recently served as vice president, and had previously been president for nine years, said he decided not to run for the board again for personal reasons.
"I put a lot of my personal life on hold for the fair board-my family and my home," he said.
At a glance
Washington County Fair Board members:
- Paul Barth, president.
- Michael Swatzel, vice president.
- Jeremy Barth, secretary.
- Sandra Hickey, treasurer.
- Jake Hall.
- Jennifer Harbert.
- Lynn Meeks.
- Frank Tucker.
- Mack McHale.
- Steve Thomas.
- Teresa Thomas.
- Richard Henthorn.
- Mike Barth.
- Brad Boyd.
- Walter Griffin.
- Mike Moore.
- Dwight Ullman.
- Lhan Weppler.
The amount of volunteer hours required to serve as a board member "took its toll" on him, he added.
"(The fair board doesn't) have the help like we had years ago," Tornes said.
For example, in 1984 the Washington County Fair Board and volunteers built the horse barn on the fairgrounds.
"Today, you can't hardly get enough (people) to paint the roof on the barn, let alone build the barn," Tornes said.
As Bonnie Gill spent a decade serving as fair board secretary, she also did a great deal of committee work.
"I always try to do 150 percent, and say 'I can do,'" she said.
Kyle Hartline of Lowell worked with Gill to schedule events at the fairgrounds.
"She knew everything that was going on down there," said Hartline. "Every time you went to the fairgrounds, Bonnie was there. She was always there and always willing to help in any way she could."
Juggling too many fair and personal tasks became too much for Gill.
"The fair is stressful, it's 365 days a year. I needed to step down from something," she said.
A big challenge awaits those on the fair board, said Gill.
"People are gonna find out how challenging it is," she added. "I hope that (board members) can continue to move forward into the future and can still put on a great fair."
Kudos were sent all around to past fair board members by Paul Barth, current fair board president.
"They've been dedicated, had their minds in putting the fair together and making it work," said Barth.
Richard Henthorn, who was a fair board member for about 30 years was asked and agreed to return to the Washington County Fair Board.
"I think it's a plus...because of his past experience," Barth said.
Henthorn may serve as chair for fair rides and concessions, he added.
Due to numerous negative comments about the Washington County Fair and questions about its financial future, Barth said he, other more experienced board members and new members all have plenty of challenges ahead of them.
"What we've heard from new members and the community is that there's nothing to see at the fair," Barth said. "We've heard it from different ones in the community that our fair went downhill."
According to Barth, new fair board members are determined "to try to bring it back to what it used to be."
"New members are talking about having some different events throughout the year," he added.
Events might include dinners, more indoor and outdoor displays and different entertainment.
Barth would also like to see effort put into the fair activities for children.
"The fair is all about the kids-FFA, 4-H, boy and girl scouts," he said.
Jeremy Barth, who is the fair board's secretary and is starting his 12th year on the board, said he hopes the mix of past and new board members will bring a combination of experience and a fresh perspective.
"With some new eyes maybe some things might look up," said Jeremy Barth. "Some of them will look at something different and have a better idea."
Jeremy Barth also understands that the fair board is challenged to provide activities, events and displays for the community.
"We tried different ideas last year. We brought in racing pigs that hadn't been in the fair in many years and first-bite fishing," he said.
More vendors downstairs and upstairs in Merchant Hall at the fairgrounds is something else Barth said he would like to see again.
Steve Tornes said he sends his good wishes to the fair board going forward.
"I hope that everybody can pitch in, do the work and can get the job done to keep the fairgrounds alive," he said. "The community is basically the ones who are going keep the fair or not keep it."
Fair board members will face ongoing budgetary challenges in 2013.
According to treasurer Sandra Hickey, the fair board is in the red.
"We are in the red by $6,000," she said. "We still have not paid premiums from people who entered items and livestock in the fair, and for utilities and operating expenses."
The fair board's average monthly expenses are approximately $7,000, Hickey said.
A little more than $300,000 is owed for the fairground's multi purpose building. The payment for the building is $2,600 per month.
"That's an expense that I would really like to get paid," said Hickey.
In 2011, a rough estimate placed the loss from the Washington County Fair at somewhere between $30,000 to $40,000 after rains soaked the final two days of the four-day event.
It costs $50,000 to $75,000 to put on the fair each year, and the normal take in gate admissions is around $160,000. The estimated revenue for 2011 was far less than half of that amount.
"If we don't do good at the fair, we have no money to operate rest of year with," Hickey said.