MARTIN COUNTY — The Fair Association has another two years to raise the money required to move the annual county fair to a new fairground near Indiantown, but the patience of county commissioners is wearing thin.
The association experienced fundraising obstacles after it agreed in 2019 to raise $3.5 million to lease county-owned property on Southwest Citrus Boulevard.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit about three months later, and the County Commission extended the fundraising deadline to Sept. 15, 2022.
It’s unclear when the annual fair will make its move westward after operating for 63 years on Southeast Dixie Highway in Stuart.
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Fair Manager Jay Spicer last week asked for a second extension. Although the commission unanimously approved extending to Sept. 15, 2024, commissioners Sarah Heard and Harold Jenkins aired their frustrations.
While Heard reiterated the need for the county to protect its assets, such as the land slated for the future fairgrounds, Jenkins referred to “numerous meetings” he’s had with the Fair Association board whose members disagreed with aspects of its agreement with the county.
“I’m at the end of my rope with those kinds of meetings,” Jenkins told Spicer. “I am one of your biggest fans. I really want to see this happen. But we’re talking about extending the terms of an agreement that you’re not in agreement with.”
The Fair Association has accepted terms of the agreement, he replied, since “we have no leverage.”
“Things can change down the road, but it is what it is,” Spicer added.
Although the Fair Association has had fundraising difficulties, it’s now gaining steam after extending its campaign nationwide and hiring a funding consultant, Spicer told commissioners. Notably, it’s received $6.5 million through an educational farming grant from the United Farmers Alliance.
“We still need matching cash to get some of that grant money spent,” Spicer said. “Raising money is hard, but we do have movement. It’s not like we’re upstream with nothing.”
Commissioner Ed Ciampi, whose district includes the 82-acre county property, noted that “the bar has been raised pretty high” in addition to obstacles with the pandemic and inflation.
“I’m sad that it’s taken us this long,” he said, “and I don’t blame you and your efforts.”