Youth Fair and Livestock Show adjusts, will stay at fairgrounds

Published: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 7:42 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 7:42 p.m.

After the Alachua County Fairgrounds pole barn collapsed in December, organizers for the Alachua County Youth Fair and Livestock Show worried they might not find an alternative space in time.

The fairgrounds has been the youth fair's home for years, but show organizers considered moving it to a new location after the pole barn's roof, which was in the midst of repairs, was wrecked during a storm.

But the county and the fair's board of directors have established a new plan — one that keeps the fair at the fairgrounds, at least for one more year.

The show ring for the animals, which is typically set up in the pole barn, will now be in the exhibition hall along with other exhibits, said Cindy Sanders, county extension director for Alachua County and the University of Florida/IFAS. The fair will rent three tents, as usual, and this year the county will also rent a tent to provide more space.

The youth fair considered Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park and the Canterbury Showplace equestrian center in Newberry as alternative locations, she said. One problem with Paynes Prairie was its location, which was too far out for students touring the fair to return to school on time.

Sanders called the solution a "temporary fix."

The county will spend about $9,000 to rent the tent, a sizable drop from the large, clear-span tent it previously considered renting for $20,000, said Robert Avery, county parks superintendent.

It will spend another $10,000 or so on additional amenities, including cattle and hog panels to corral the animals — a job previously done by the fencing already in place at the now-defunct pole barn.

The county will also haul sand into the show ring so the animals don't walk on concrete, Avery said.

The county will still spend almost as much as it would have on the $20,000 tent rental, but at least it can keep some of these materials for future use.

"We'll have something to show for it when we get done, something that can be used again," Avery said.

The county will start working on a better alternative for the 2014 youth fair right after this year's show, which runs March 7-12. He expects the fair will be held at the current fairgrounds again next year.

Even if negotiations are successful at relocating the fairgrounds to the Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville, better known as the Gainesville Raceway, there is much design and construction work to be done before the new site opens, Avery said.

Emily Eubanks, who serves on the youth fair's board of directors, said the kids are excited to know the fair will be happening, although the exhibition hall will be packed with twice as much stuff this year.

"The facilities committee has worked with the county to come up with a solution that I don't know if everybody's happy with," she said, "but will work with us for this year."

Contact Morgan Watkins at 338-3104 or

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