Ground to grow on
One potential problem — a loss of parking — was averted with the 2011 land buy.
Before the purchase, some of the Aggregate ground had been leased for fair parking. Graber doesn’t relish the thought of what would have happened had the land been sold to and developed by someone else, and the fair lost its parking privileges.
“That would have killed us, I think, in terms of being able to continue with the types of programs we put on and the numbers of people we try to put through that place in nine days,” he said. “We just wouldn’t have had places to park everybody.”
The new acreage offers not only possibilities for parking vehicles, but also another way to get them in and out of the fairgrounds.
The new ground abuts C.R. 36. Graber foresees an entrance/exit off C.R. 36 that will be developed into a major thoroughfare in and out of the fair. The route will connect with C.R. 34.
“We’re just going to give everybody some more options as far as being able to get in and get out in a more timely fashion,” he said.
Graber also described the land purchase as being essential to the fair’s growth potential.
“We’re really land-locked in every other direction with the exception of the land we purchased there,” he said. “In terms of growth, that was our only opportunity ...because we couldn’t go in any other direction.”
Helping chart the fair’s course is the long-established Long-Range Planning Committee. Last year, a new group called the Land Development Infrastructure Committee was formed as part of the review process. That group is made up of three Fair Board and two non-Fair Board members.
Now it’s a matter of trying to make decisions, according to Graber, like where to put roads and where to locate utilities. Referencing the short amount of time the land was paid off, Graber said he doesn’t want people to think fair fundraising is finished.
“There’s as much money or maybe more money involved in now trying to develop that land and the infrastructure,” he said.
For those involved with sustaining the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds, this is a time of serious planning. It’s a period of transition. It’s also a time of excitement, Graber said.
“I think everybody that’s involved with the board now sort of sees this as a crossroad,” he said. “Certainly being able to look back 10, 15 years from now and saying ‘Hey, look what we’ve got now’ and knowing we were a part of that whole thing is really exciting.
“We’re at a crossroads here, and I think we’re headed the right direction.”