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Parking lot paving coming for fair
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Preparations are under way for the 2012 Warren County A&L Fair. Paving for handicap parking areas will replace an upgrade of bathroom facilities.
Last year, the Fair Board considered replacing the current restrooms and possibly building new restrooms by the carnival area for 2012. Fair Board president Kevin Lawrence says that must now take a back seat to parking.
“I’m still planning on doing that,” Lawrence told the county’s Economic and Agricultural Development Committee. “But, I did something last year I knew was going to be controversial before I did it. It was a safety issue that got to be too much of a liability.”
In 2011, Lawrence made the decision to stop allowing handicap parking inside the gate and around the grandstand. The move was necessitated when Lawrence says he saw an individual accidentally “bump” a pedestrian on the legs while trying to maneuver a vehicle in the area.
“It didn’t knock the individual down or anything, but it did bump him on the leg,” Lawrence said. “I’m sure they didn’t see him while they were backing out. That is what made me do it. It wasn’t done to keep elderly or handicapped from coming to the fair.”
Instead, five areas outside the gates were designated for handicap individuals and a play area for children was installed next to the grandstand.
The parking decision was not well-received. Along with complaints to the Standard, Lawrence personally received some not-so-nice letters in the mail from angry individuals.
“I received some complaints and a couple of hate-mail letters. I’m talking true hate mail,” said Lawrence. “Oh, well. I knew it would happen.”
While hateful letters did not sway him to reverse the decision, Lawrence says he would like to tackle one of the complaints this year rather than focusing on bathrooms.
Five graveled or grassy areas were designated for handicap parking. One of the complaints received involved the difficulty of pushing a wheelchair on a gravel surface.
“What we would like to do is pave those areas or some of them,” said Lawrence. “We could put asphalt down so individuals can move better than they are now. I don’t know the cost of that as of yet, but I think that should be our main project this year.”
When it comes to last year’s fair, the carnival did well despite the economy.
“We had a real good year last year,” said Lawrence. “Entries were up. When I walked through the building, it surprised me. I couldn’t believe it. Everything went well. Our gross revenue from the carnival, which is where are main revenue comes from, was down just over $3,000.”
John Anderson played last year, which was the first major musical talent the fair had recruited in a while, says Lawrence.
“We felt the time was right and the county needed a little boost. He worked with us. I think we got him for $12,000. When he heard who it was and where it was, he came down on his price. We estimate about 6,000 people were there.”
New on the Fair Board this year will be Nathan Harris.
“I guess I stole him from Van Buren County,” said Lawrence. “They are going to be a little upset with me. He helped us last year and I want to get him on the board. I’m asking that he be appointed.”
The committee voted 4-0 to allow the appointment, with Commissioners Les Trotman, Wayne Copeland, Ron Lee and George Smartt voting for the measure. Commissioner Gary Prater was absent.