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05-19-06 Fairgrounds could become tourist draw

By Tim Cox

  The recent decision by the Mercer County Fair Board to hire a fairgrounds manager to better market the facility will be a boon to local tourism, Auglaize & Mercer Counties Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) Director Donna Grube told county commissioners Thursday.

  Grube pointed to Allen County as an example of an area that maximizes the use of its fairgrounds to enhance tourism.

  "It's their fairgrounds that draw people to that county," Grube said.

  Scott Riffle recently was hired by Mercer County Fair officials to find ways to use the fairgrounds on a year-round basis.

  "If Scott is successful, it's going to be a bonus for everybody," Grube said, noting that visitors to the fairgrounds ultimately will spend money at area restaurants, hotels, gas stations and retail stores.  Overnight guests help benefit the CVB because the agency draws its entire budget from a 3 percent bed tax charged in Mercer and Auglaize counties.

  Although the Mercer County fairgrounds is ripe to host new activities, officials said they know it won't be a quick process. The fairgrounds has a new restroom/shower facility, numerous camping sites, the race track in front of the grandstand, and other buildings available for use.

  "It will take awhile for Scott to make the right connections. Plus, a lot of events are scheduled a year or two in advance," Grube said.

  "It won't happen overnight. It will take awhile to build up," Commissioner Bob Nuding said.


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