4-H Park seeing more changes, improvements
June 20, 2012
4-H Junior Leaders Thomas Stepp, Kira Mounsey and Ethan Roe work on the exterior of the log cabin to help get it ready for this summer's events at the park. The cabin will host programs during the 4-H Fair and the Wheels of Yesteryear before undergoing "surgery" to replace several of the logs. (Photo by Frank Shanly)
By FRANK SHANLY
The Wells County 4-H Park will have a slightly new look about it come fair time, but many more changes will still be on their way.
Pride of place at this year’s fair is expected to be the new Junior Leader booth, which is already being used — for a project that wasn’t originally an expected use.
Last summer, the 4-H Association obtained a grant to run a program providing backpacks that kids take home on Friday throughout the school year.
“Many of these are kids who are on free and reduced lunches. So it’s kind of like ‘backpacks for hungry kids,’”, explained 4-H Cooperative Extension Service Officer Roger Sherer. “We’ve been using the Junior Leader booth to do all that packing of the food. I think at our highest point we did 89 a week.
“That worked out nice because we insulated that building and we had a portable heater so it was kind of like ‘oh, we never planned on using it for that but it turned out great.’ And I’m sure that all the donors who gave money for the building would agree because we don’t like to build buildings that are used one week out of the year. We try to come up with other uses for them.”
4-H officials have applied for another grant to continue the program next year. They are also involving other community groups in the project in the hope that should the grant money no longer be available, the project can still continue.
Over recent weeks, the Junior Leaders themselves have been working to decorate their new booth, to make it look its best for the fair.
The other main change visitors to the park may notice this year wasn’t a fortunate one — the emerald ash borer visited the park and caused considerable damage.
“We really took a hit,” lamented Sherer. “Just here at the park, we had 51 ash trees (infected) so we’ve cut down a lot of trees during the summer and we’re in the process of planting some. We’re going to be planting more this summer, and probably this fall is when we’ll do most of the planting. So that’s been a bit of an issue.”
4-H officials have several other projects underway, which probably won’t come into fruition this year, but will nevertheless be receiving considerable attention.
“We have started an account to slowly raise money for new restrooms and to replace the Quonset (hut),” explained Sherer. “We don’t have a time schedule for that. I have a feeling that probably the rest room is a higher priority because everybody uses rest rooms. And everybody who comes to the fair and exhibits animals changes clothes.
“Part of our problem is that if it’s a rainy day at all, the restrooms out here, the floor is wet, so (4-H students) come all the way up to here (the office). These are the restrooms of choice, to change their clothes. They’ve washed their animals, and then they’ve got to get into their good clothes to show their animals.
“So that’s a concern — a dry place to change clothes during the fair and other events. There’s a pretty hefty price tag and it’s hard to cut corners on restrooms. It’s nothing but concrete, pipes and fixtures. You can’t cut corners. So we’re looking forward to that and we know that people would welcome new restrooms.”
Sherer hopes that a replacement building for the Quonset hut can be a multi-use building, with heating and air-conditioning, that could accommodate a wide variety of events.
“We have a dog program and we really delay the start of that until it gets warm enough,” noted Sherer. “But if we had a nicer place, we could do that. We’re reluctant to bring animals in to the expo hall because when you start doing that you have groups coming in that are allergic to it, and it’s not ideal. We would like to have a more multi-use building for animals.”
The new building could also be used to host a concert if it was forced indoors, or possibly a merchant area during the 4-H Fair.
Sherer notes that the existing Quonset hut is in need of repair, but board members have been reluctant to spend money on it if it is going to be replaced within the next couple of years.
“You can’t paint the roof for less than $8,000,” he noted, “so do you paint the roof and tear it down two years later?”
4-H officials are also working on an “emergency plan” brought on by the tragedy at last year’s State Fair.
“With the disaster at the Indiana State Fair there has been a real movement with all sorts of fairs and festivals, to think about what does it take to cancel, or postpone or delay things,” explained Sherer. “To look at different issues more carefully. To watch the weather beyond Marion and if there is something happening southwest of Marion, that means we’ve got a half hour. So that sort of thing has kind of been pushed forward, which is good.”
Sherer also notes that work is required on the log cabin, which was originally built in 1855, and has been located in the park since 1963. Several of the logs need to be replaced, and park officials are trying to get estimates on how much this work will cost.
Sherer currently expects that this project will be undertaken later in the year, with work commencing after the Wheels of Yesteryear in August, and finishing some time over the fall months.
With this year’s fair in mind, 4-H officials do have one additional goal in mind.
“We’ve ordered not so hot weather,” laughed Sherer, “so it will be a nice comfortable fair.”
This year’s 4-H Fair is scheduled to run from July 16 through July 21. The Wheels of Yesteryear Festival is scheduled for Aug. 13 through 15.