Fair unveils $4-million pavilion
EAGLE ” During a heavy rainstorm Monday afternoon, the volunteers checking in Open Class exhibits at the Eagle County Fair were keeping a wary eye on the roof of the new $4-million pavilion.
It had a few leaks ” ultimately dealt with by a few strategically placed waste baskets, and some next-day repair work by the contractor. This week’s County Fair is the kick-off event for the sprawling, 45,000-square-foot building that the county commissioners have dubbed the “Eagle River Center.”
The spacious building will make a notable change in the flow of people and animals about the fairgrounds; and the presentation of popular fair events, such as the Junior Livestock Sale and the Open Class competition. Once the new building’s kinks are worked out, county officials and pavilion user groups envision lots of use for the Eagle River Center.
“This means an opportunity for Eagle County. It means more contestants at our rodeos, more livestock events, and maybe a possible place for (high school) graduation,” said Joanne Ford, 18, of Eagle.
Ford, who has been in the local 4-H program for 10 years, knows her way around County Fair. She sees greater safety in the new building, which is large enough to provide some separation between the crowd and the sometimes testy farm animals, such as the steers.
“I can’t tell you how nice it is not to have to worry about horses, livestock, and people crossing paths. It’s a terrific set-up,” fair coordinator Dick Kesler said.
The new pavilion is located west of the rodeo arena, which means crowds will move from west to east.
This is also the first time that the livestock exhibits and the Open Class exhibits, including quilts, artwork, canned goods and baked goods will be housed under one roof. In past years, many members of the rodeo crowd never made the trek a few hundred feet to the east to see the displays in the old Exhibit Hall.
Lindsey Kirby of McCoy made a trip to the new center to enter her golden beets, white potatoes and sunflowers in the Open Class competition.
“I’m all about the new building … It’s great for 4-H, and great for the community,” she said, “It also has great potential for the community of Eagle.”
Inside the Center, which is basically a 150-foot-by-300-foot steel structure with a dirt floor and high ceiling, movable partitions define the different fair sections. A heavy carpet-type floor covering has been laid down over the dirt floor in the Open Class exhibit side of the building. On the other side of the partitions, there’s a dirt floor and a show arena for the livestock events.
The pavilion has been the point of some controversy between the county commissioners. When first proposed, it was a $1.9-million project. A number of factors, including the county’s decision to increase the size of the facility, the rising costs of steel, and some unanticipated expenses resulted in a project that is coming in just shy of $4 million.
In pushing for the pavilion, supporters said the building would be used for many purposes.
Fairgrounds Manager Brad Higgens said the building has already been booked for a dog show and a “metaphysical fair” in the fall. The local Chamber of Commerce is working on bringing in a car show, and other events.
“When the public sees this structure, they’ll realize how multi-purpose it is … just use your imagination,” said Kesler.
Was it worth the $4 million?
“Absolutely,” Kesler asserted.
This article first appeared in the Eagle Valley Enterprise.
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