Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014
By William Kincaid
Officials aim for more events at fairgrounds
  CELINA - The Mercer County Fairgrounds is fast on its way to becoming a year-round venue, fair board manager Cara Muhlenkamp told the Celina Rotary Club on Tuesday.
"We're really trying to take things to the next level and continue to bring new things," Muhlenkamp said. "Hopefully a lot of you have noticed that there's more than just the fair and boarding of horses going on out there."
Several events and parties have been hosted at the fairgrounds; the board rents out the buildings frequently, she added.
Buildings already are booked solid for graduation parties in April, May and June, and reserved for many holiday parties in November and December, Muhlenkamp said.
"The Junior Fair Building, that's continued to be used more frequently for weddings, and we're continuing to do some upgrades to that building," she said, adding the board wants to make the kitchen more user-friendly for catering.
The board also is working with CALL Food Pantry and local churches to organize a soup kitchen on Tuesday evenings, Muhlenkamp said. The event may include shuttle service to transport people from the parking lots to the building, she said.
"We're really excited to be working with CALL Food Pantry," she said. "It will be an exciting ministry to work with the community."
The 2013 fair was a success; the board received multiple phone calls, emails and comments about how outstanding the event was, Muhlenkamp said.
"For it being my first fair to plan, I couldn't get over what an amazing feeling it was, but with that I had a sense of panic because how are you going to top that?" she asked. "How are you going to do something bigger and better with it?"
The perfect weather led to record-breaking attendance last year, she said. The cattlemen organization sold an extra 2,500 hamburgers during the week, she added.
The fair hosted a concert last year featuring Joe Nichols and Angie Johnson - the first nationally-renowned performers to hit the local grandstand stage in years. This year organizers booked country star Rodney Atkins and up-and-coming act The Swon Brothers.
"Ticket sales are going wonderful," Muhlenkamp said. "We're already past that 60 percent sold-out."
DockDogs, a world premier canine aquatics competition, will be new this year and a rough truck contest will replace the demolition derby.
"We've kind of seen a decline in the demo-derby here in the past," Muhlenkamp said, adding the board wanted to change up things.
The staff also listened to people last year who said they'd like to see more vendors, demonstrations and events in the entertainment and Junior Fair tent.
"There shouldn't be a dull moment by any means in there," she said. "It's taken a lot of planning but the girls in the office have done an amazing job, and I'm really thankful for what they put together for us."
Muhlenkamp also spoke about the $4 million multi-purpose Progressive Agriculture Convention and Education Center being organized in conjunction with Wright State University-Lake Campus.
After learning the fairgrounds was selected to receive $1.5 million in the state capital budget bill, officials are rethinking the design and layout of the building. More details will be announced soon, Muhlenkamp said.
The large, heated arena will be big enough to host 200 horses and multiple shows, she said.
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