GOSHEN — When the Elkhart County 4-H Fair gates open in a few weeks, a local RV company will headline a well-known space to fairgoers, commonly called the “famous food row.”
A sign reading “Food Row sponsored by Keystone RV Company” will soon stretch across the road at the fairgrounds, welcoming visitors to the row of tasty treats.
Keystone RV Company, based in Goshen, signed a two-year agreement with fair officials to serve as sponsor.
The 2015 Elkhart County 4-H Fair “Planning Toward a Bright Future” begins July 24 and continues through Aug. 1.
The sponsorship funding from Keystone RV will be used toward paving projects and facility upkeep, fair officials said.
“Keystone has been part of our sponsor list for many years, but we’re excited to be able to open up this new area for sponsorship,” said Kristy Ambrosen, marketing coordinator for the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds.
Jim Mac, communications director for Keystone RV, said the company has long been part of the fair and looks forward to taking on a bigger sponsorship role.
“It’s a great event for our community and if we can get involved, we will,” he said.
And sponsoring food row seemed like a great opportunity, Mac said.
“Everybody likes to go to the fair and enjoy the food. That’s one of the big draws,” he said. “...We live here and this is our community, so anything we can do as a company to make the community better and stronger, we welcome.”
This is the first time food row has been sponsored by an organization and is just one of several sponsorship areas the fair officials will add in the coming years, Ambrosen said.
“As we continue to grow bigger and bigger, there are going to be a lot of areas for these sorts of sponsorships and we’re open to that,” she said. “They not only bring the commercial side to us, but they are also bringing activities and benefits to the fair and the fair guests.”
Although information about the amount individuals sponsors donate is not released by fair officials, Ambrosen said sponsorship amounts typically range from $200 to $40,000 or higher.
This year’s fair will include 175 sponsors for events and facilities at the fairgrounds, Ambrosen said. That total does not include sponsors for some of the fair’s smaller activities such as food contests.
Keystone won’t be the only RV company with a major sponsorship role, Ambrosen said.
Evergreen RV will again be the sponsor of the track seat entrance and last year, helped cover the cost of the improvements, she said.
“The online tickets that we started a couple years back were part of Evergreen RV’s sponsorship and as the demand for better facilities for track seating increased, they have grown with us for that,” Ambrosen said. “If it wasn’t for them, it would be harder for us.”
Thor Industries will serve as the sponsor for the Winner’s Circle at this year’s fair and Grand Design RV will play a role in sponsoring the farm-to-market portion of the fair.
Components of the youth agricultural area — an area of the fair that has much growth in recent years — will be sponsored by several companies including Grand Design RV, Alpha Systems, Patrick Industries, Premier Driving Institute, and Bayer HealthCare.
“We’ve really seen a lot of sponsorship growth in that youth agricultural area,” Ambrosen said. “People are interested in supporting it.”
A large batch of sponsors will also back the 9/11 Never Forget Exhibit, a traveling tribute to lives lost in the Nov. 11, 2011 attacks in New York City.
Sponsors include Alliance Sheeting, Doug’s Alignment, Tri-County Ambulance, Goshen and Elkhart fire departments, among others.
“Usually we can tell the popularity of an event by the level of interest from our sponsors,” Ambrosen said. “We’re seeing strong community support behind the 9/11 exhibit.”
Local banks will also playing a bigger role in this year’s fair.
Key Bank and First Source Bank have returned as sponsors for the 2015 fair after a several year hiatus and Interra Credit Union has increased sponsorship this year, Ambrosen said.
“I think what we’re experiencing are some post-recession increases,” Ambrosen said. “When the recession hit, the banking and RV industry reduced involvement, but now we’re seeing them coming back.”
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