Mississippi County Fair in need of support
Mississippi County Fair, a 89-year tradition in Blytheville, is in danger of closing due to financial problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Members of the Fair Association are working diligently to keep the gates open but with the coronavirus eliminating the spring carnival and threatening the fall fair, it is not an easy task.
Fair manager Ray Lawrence explained the spring and fall events are the two fundraisers that finance the expenses of the long-running fair. The spring carnival will raise between $8,000 to $9,000 and the fall fair a little more.
The Fair Association is made up of eight volunteers. The expenses are year-round. Equipment has to be maintained, lawn care, buildings maintained, utilities, and insurance are some of the expenses, which add up to a sizable amount each year. Insurance alone is $7,000 a year.
The total expenses will average $750 a month minimum not to mention any unexpected repairs throughout the year. The Fair Association is a non-profit group and is a 501(c) (3) organization.
They are hoping to be able to hold the fall fair but it is looking doubtful it will happen on the scheduled Aug. 25-29 date. If the fall fair has to be postponed, the group hopes to be able to have a carnival at a later date in September or October if COVID-19 guidelines are lifted. They were all in agreement the priority is the health and safety of the fair visitors and workers.
The board met on Thursday evening and made the difficult decision to not have the exhibit entries this year even if the fall carnival is held.
Due to the circumstances right now, members felt it was best to go ahead and let people know there would be no exhibits.
Lawrence said they hate it because so many youth and adults participate with their entries each year.
“We appreciate them and we hope to be able to continue in years to come,” Lawrence said.
Other members attending the meeting were President David Payne, Secretary Sharon Meyer, Vice President Percy Wright and Jay Myer.
“An abundance of children in Mississippi County will never see the inside of a fair if we have to close,” Lawrence said. “We have a saying, ‘the smile on a child’s face is priceless’.”
The Fair Association discussed ways to keep the Blytheville fair financed through this difficult time. A suggestion was made to send letters and visit industries throughout Mississippi County asking for donations to help save the fair for the next generations.
“We have some very good industries and businesses in Mississippi County that might be willing to support the fair if they are made aware of the situation,” Lawrence said.
Anyone who would like to donate to help keep the fair gates open may send a tax deductible donation to Mississippi County Fair, P.O. Box 183, Blytheville, AR 72316-0183.
“We need support,” Lawrence said. “We would love to be around to celebrate the 100th birthday of the Mississippi County Fair. If the local industries, businesses and individuals will come together to support our efforts, we will be able to continue the fair tradition.”
Times have changed but the fair is still a wonderful place for people to enjoy good, clean family fun. It holds memories for over four generations of people growing up in Northeast Arkansas.
President Payne presided over the business session with the group discussing lawn mower repair, air conditioner unit repair at the exhibit building and water leak repairs.