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Kiowa County Board of Commissioners Hold Work Session to Determine Future of the County Fair

By Raina Lucero

January 25, 2023

The Kiowa County Board of Commissioners (BOCC) hosted a work session meeting concerning the Kiowa County Fair on Monday night, January 23 in the Commissioner’s meeting room. Anyone involved with the Fair or anyone who may have input was invited to attend the meeting. As indicated in the Letter to the Editor from the BOCC in the January 18th edition of the Kiowa County Independent, the results of this meeting were said to have a huge impact on our county fair’s future.

At the meeting a dozen concerned community members as well as the remaining three members of the Kiowa County Fair Board were present along with the Kiowa County Commissioners, County Administrator Tina Adamson, and assistant Dawna Peck. The meeting started with concerns expressed from a member of the community and a county employee that this meeting was not properly advertised to the community as only a Letter to the Editor was placed in last week’s edition of the Kiowa County Independent and there was little to no follow up before today. One attendee stated, “It is not fair to threaten to take away something as important as our County Fair without advertising so that the entire community has notice.”

When the topic of how the meeting should have been advertised ended so began a long list of questions concerning the Kiowa County Fair Revenue and Expense report from 2016-2022 that was provided by the Commissioner’s office to everyone in attendance. It appears that there were many discrepancies in the details of the accounting and the only logic that could be applied to those discrepancies is that there are expenses that are not being put on the correct line item. It was evident the contradictions were creating the confusion that exists between the Commissioner’s office, Extension Office, and Fair Board members. This issue is something that the Commissioner’s office hopes to rectify in the years moving forward with more input from Fair Board liaisons.

The Revenue and Expense report showed that the county received a grant for $45,523 in the year 2021 as part of an agriculture event grant tied to Covid monies paid to counties in order to mitigate damages from the loss of Fair revenue during Covid. Adamson stated that this money has not been spent and there is no deadline to spend it. She further emphasized that the Commissioners are in hopes to use this money as match money for a larger grant to fix infrastructure issues at the fairgrounds including building new bathrooms and seating under the grandstands.

Adamson stated that with the renewable energy companies moving in there is hope that the County will receive some public relations monies from those companies that could go toward covering the expenses of the Fair as well as in other areas of the county. However, Commissioner Mike Lening pointed out it may be premature to count on those funds.

Lening noted, “Public relations money is not a guarantee. There are a lot of hands out there that are asking those companies for the same type of money so we should not sit and assume the County will be given money.”

Currently the Kiowa County budget includes $36,000 to help fund the Fair each year, this is a substantial amount of money for a county that is financially strapped already. Per the Revenue and Expense report since the year 2016 the Kiowa County Fair has lost from $23,000 to $44,000 each year. This fact raised questions as to whether the money the county continues to contribute is spent wisely on an event that results in that great of a loss.

Money aside, the real issue with the Kiowa County Fair is the lack of volunteers, and more importantly the lack of interest in serving on the Fair Board. Currently, Cody Fox, Areta Laird, and Tabatha Ferris are the only members of what should be a 7-to-9-member board. Fox and Ferris were not shy to express their level of burn out and their dissatisfaction of how little help they have as a board.

Ferris even went as far as to say, “If we don’t get more members, you can count me out.”

After much discussion about how the County could move forward and help the existing members it was decided that the Kiowa County Board of Commissioners may need to consider creating a paid position as a Kiowa County Fair manager. This person would handle the day-to-day operations through the year to ensure that contracts are signed, payments are made, and that other Fair operations run smoothly. The Fair Board members felt that someone who could lift those responsibilities off their backs would make it much easier to coordinate the Kiowa County Fair with the least amount of stress possible for them and allow them to also partake and enjoy in events which they have not been able to do since serving on the board.

Though there were no concrete decisions made at the work session there was enough people in the room that wanted to see the Fair continue, and no one made any indication that it should not proceed. They only stressed that there needs to be better communication and more interest from the community.

If there is anyone who would like to serve on the Fair Board, please contact the Commissioner’s office at 719-438-5810.

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