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Committee discusses future development for fairgrounds

The Boone County Fair will be up and running in the next few weeks, but the fair and the land it sits on face an uncertain future.

A look at the soggy fairgrounds Wednesday, it’s hard to imagine in just a few weeks the midway will be filled with the sounds and lights of a carnival venue. Despite the rain, the fair board said it will be ready.

“When our guests come to the fair, we want everything to look the best we possibly can, and so, it’s a challenge but we’re up to it,” said Jeff Cook, president of the Boone County Fair Board.

But a challenge the fair board might not be up to, is where to go after this year. After voters said “No” in August to a tax increase for county parks and recreation, the county doesn’t have the money to maintain the grounds during off season. County and city leaders met Wednesday to talk future development in the area.

“If we can do those two things: identify what this property is used for and then go through the process of finding the funding for that — we’ll be successful,” said Dan Atwill, Boone County presiding commissioner.

Much of the conversation trended toward building a family sports complex, which would include the existing baseball fields and would add soccer fields among other amenities.

Cook said development should also include an area for the fair. “I think we need to marriage them all together and make it work for everybody. Not just our sports people.”

It’s unclear at this point if the fair will be included in the future plans, leaving the fair in limbo.

“We have nowhere to go. We’ve had smaller communities… Ashland has approached us, Sturgeon,Centralia, Hallsville about moving the fair there if we have to. None of those have the facility that we have here,” said Cook.

Atwill said funding will be a major hurdle for any future development on the property. He said past projects have failed because of the lack of available funding.

The committee plans to travel to the Kansas City area to look at venues for project ideas.

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