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Chris

Chemung County Fairgrounds - Is There A Better Way To Utilize Them?

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On 8/14/2023 at 7:38 PM, LocalSportsGuy said:

As for getting more use out of the fairgrounds, a farmers market on like a Tuesday or something wouldn't be a bad idea but even the big ones like the one in Elmira I notice have lacked vendors this year so I don't know how many they would get. 

I've posted this already but I'll re-post because I think it's important. 10 years ago plans were announced for an indoor farmer's market and conference center building there at the fairgrounds. I would love to have a location where I could go once a week and get fresher produce than is often found in the grocery stores. There's one in Lewisburg along with the accompanying flea market and the selection of produce, meats, and other products is amazing. That alone could be a huge draw to that area and a big help to area farmers, particularly as long as the vending costs weren't ridiculously prohibitive ( as can be the case in some farmer market type events I've seen in the past ). 

But in addition to that, think of what they could use that conference center for. Just yesterday Senator Kirstin Giilibrand was in the area for a meeting with local brewers and the Hop Guild. It was held at a local brewery, which is cool, but think of what and who we could draw in for similar meetings and events to a bigger facility! Also, it could spur some sort of interest in the old Hills plaza, which I had looked into ten years ago. The traffic coming to that area, just off the highway, could spill over into a well run antique mall or other kind of vendors' business. 

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As I understand it, there has been concerns raised that a farmers market on the scale I'm thinking wouldn't benefit local producers. That instead, it would bring wholesale outfits into the area with stuff that was grown elsewhere. 

I understand that concern, but here's my thoughts on it:

If I'm selling eggs, and try to sell at a small time farmers market, I may not sell a lot. One, because so many people around here have chickens, but also because what's the draw for someone from say, Corning or Watkins Glen? They surely have people closer to them selling, and likely cheap. There's no incentive for either party to be there, really. 

But let's say you DO have one of those huge wholesale produce vendors come in. Their stuff is a hell of a lot fresher than what's in the grocery stores and they can sell at lower prices because they buy in larger quantities. So Mr. and Mrs. Corning Inc. decide to stop in and see what is there. Wow, there's a lot to choose from! And hey, while we're here this guy is selling eggs. Yeah, they're a buck or more than Jim Bob up the road, but we're right here, and we can "support local". And hey look, those people have...."

You need something bigger to draw the people there. Then the smaller vendors can capitalize on their presence. 

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1 hour ago, Chris said:

You need something bigger to draw the people there. Then the smaller vendors can capitalize on their presence. 

That's a very good point.

I like the idea of some sort of tiered structure that draws in an equivalent to the (now defunct) concept of mall "anchor stores". Once upon a time, having those big stores provided traffic for smaller operations to benefit from.

But I do think the fees for vendors need to offer some "break" for the little guys.... one-person DBA’s, family business or hobbyists who reside in the county (our taxpayers who fund and, in principle, "own" the fairgrounds).

If those little guys can't compete because fees are prohibitive, then only the larger enterprises can afford to participate. And it’s not as much of community benefit that helps local (taxpaying) vendors flourish.

Edited by MsKreed

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I also think it’s always worth looking at successful models and researching what works and makes them successful.

Maybe someone should do a deep dive into The Windmill.

It’s open one day a week through the season (plus a few secular holidays like Memorial Day, Labor Day and Columbus Day).....and we all know that it draws steady business from several counties each week.

I know that vendors need to join (and ‘own’ a share of) the Yates County Cooperative. But have no idea if that membership is open to those outside the county or what the various fees are for indoor or outdoor vending space, etc.

They also regularly have live local music, as well as some “event” just about every month:

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On 8/10/2023 at 8:55 PM, Kevin said:

Most of the current fair board members are in their 70's and are retiring after this year. So next year's fair will have a mostly new board. I am hoping they can turn it around.

September 19th 6:30pm at Ag Society office at fairgrounds there will be the annual meeting of Ag Society to bring on new board members to begin planning for 2024 fair. They are looking for 4-7 new members. Show up if interested in being part of bringing the fair back to something to be proud of. 

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4 hours ago, MsKreed said:

Maybe someone should do a deep dive into The Windmill.

That is an absolutely great idea. 

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18 hours ago, Lawana Morse said:

September 19th 6:30pm at Ag Society office at fairgrounds there will be the annual meeting of Ag Society to bring on new board members to begin planning for 2024 fair. They are looking for 4-7 new members. Show up if interested in being part of bringing the fair back to something to be proud of. 

I was under the impression they already had enough people ready to take over. That's something I may look into if it's not the case. 

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1 hour ago, Kevin said:

That's something I may look into if it's not the case. 

I think you'd be a good choice for that with your board experience in other areas. 

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17 hours ago, Kevin said:

I was under the impression they already had enough people ready to take over. That's something I may look into if it's not the case. 

Yes there are some that are returning to the board and there are some who left in previous years that are returning but there is still room for more. With anything, it’s always the same people on these boards so getting some fresh faces and ideas would be very valuable. 
I have sat and listened to some of the ideas being batted around for 2024 and it’s encouraging IF it can happen and if we can get the community excited about the fair again. 
Those that have stepped up so far are willing to listen and communicate in ways the previous board did not. The fair year starts now with planning. So much goes into it from dealing with contracts and budget. The previous board did not have a written budget or plan. The current members want to get processes documented and a solid budget in place to present to the county so they can start booking the big attractions. 
Even if someone is not interested in being on the board, sitting in on a meeting now and then would be informative and helpful for getting accurate information out to the community.  
 

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2 hours ago, Lawana Morse said:

Yes there are some that are returning to the board and there are some who left in previous years that are returning but there is still room for more. With anything, it’s always the same people on these boards so getting some fresh faces and ideas would be very valuable. 
I have sat and listened to some of the ideas being batted around for 2024 and it’s encouraging IF it can happen and if we can get the community excited about the fair again. 
Those that have stepped up so far are willing to listen and communicate in ways the previous board did not. The fair year starts now with planning. So much goes into it from dealing with contracts and budget. The previous board did not have a written budget or plan. The current members want to get processes documented and a solid budget in place to present to the county so they can start booking the big attractions. 
Even if someone is not interested in being on the board, sitting in on a meeting now and then would be informative and helpful for getting accurate information out to the community.  
 

I will add it to my calendar. I think it would be interesting to be on the fair board. 

Edited by Kevin
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@Lawana MorseI'll be more than happy to post those meeting dates and times on this site calendar for anyone who is interested! I didn't realize they were open to the public. 

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I’m curious, aside from organizing the Fair through the Fair Board, does the Ag Society oversee/manage the Fairgrounds as a property/venue?

I think we really need a year round Community Center that can host Flea Markets and Produce Markets like Lewisburg or the Windmill, as well as entertainment and community events.

And I guess I’d hope to see a County Fairgrounds Board of some sort at the helm. With varied backgrounds and strengths, drawing from whole community beyond single organization (although the Ag Society is certainly an important group to have as part of the whole).

 

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12 minutes ago, MsKreed said:

I’m curious, aside from organizing the Fair through the Fair Board, does the Ag Society oversee/manage the Fairgrounds as a property/venue?

I don't believe so.

The way it was explained to me in a conversation I had a while back is, the county does until it's time for the fair. Then for 2-3 weeks the Ag Society has "full control" of the grounds. They have to have everything cleaned up and returned to the condition it was found in by the Wednesday or so after the fair is over. To accomplish this, they've had to turn to hiring people through a temp agency to clean the grounds. The county doesn't do it. The Ag Society has to pay of the tents, porta johns, dumpsters, etc. 

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7 minutes ago, Chris said:

The way it was explained to me in a conversation I had a while back is, the county does until it's time for the fair. Then for 2-3 weeks the Ag Society has "full control" of the grounds.

I sort of thought that was the case...that the Ag Society and Fair Board are essentially tenants that rent the fairgrounds from County like any other organization does throughout the year.

Which begs the question....does the County have some Board of its own that is tasked with developing ideas and bringing in events? (Particularly regarding the proposed Community Center /Farm Market project). Or does the County pretty just wait for interested groups to submit an application to use the grounds and process the paperwork?

It seems like a diverse group of people from the around community and local organizations (that can actively engage in generating interest and events) would be far more valuable than a “passive” ownership and management by the County (where the Building & Grounds Department simply processes applications as they are submitted and collects the requisite fees).

Like the “team” Margeson has said the Arena will have.  And honestly, I think the type of venue a new Building offers (along with the Fairgrounds as a whole – indoor usage, grandstands, all that space) would be far more practical, more utilized, and draw more visitors (local and out of area) than the Arena ever will.

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On 8/19/2023 at 10:41 PM, MsKreed said:

And honestly, I think the type of venue a new Building offers (along with the Fairgrounds as a whole – indoor usage, grandstands, all that space) would be far more practical, more utilized, and draw more visitors (local and out of area) than the Arena ever will.

Yes, with better parking options as well as an easy on and off of the highway. 

The other thing that, sadly, comes to mind is the public perception of Elmira. There are people who won't go there, at least not after dark, because of the crime they read about as well as the homeless and random nut jobs wandering the streets all hours of the day and night. I've been at events that in years past were jam packed right up til the very end but now, people clear out as the sun goes down. They don't want to be in that neighborhood after dark. 

And things aren't going to change down there until they get that under control. In the meantime however, the fairgrounds is an excellent place for more festivals and other community activities. 

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On 8/19/2023 at 10:41 PM, MsKreed said:

I sort of thought that was the case...that the Ag Society and Fair Board are essentially tenants that rent the fairgrounds from County like any other organization does throughout the year.

Which begs the question....does the County have some Board of its own that is tasked with developing ideas and bringing in events? (Particularly regarding the proposed Community Center /Farm Market project). Or does the County pretty just wait for interested groups to submit an application to use the grounds and process the paperwork?

It seems like a diverse group of people from the around community and local organizations (that can actively engage in generating interest and events) would be far more valuable than a “passive” ownership and management by the County (where the Building & Grounds Department simply processes applications as they are submitted and collects the requisite fees).

Like the “team” Margeson has said the Arena will have.  And honestly, I think the type of venue a new Building offers (along with the Fairgrounds as a whole – indoor usage, grandstands, all that space) would be far more practical, more utilized, and draw more visitors (local and out of area) than the Arena ever will.

No the county does not have a board such as you are speaking of.  It has been talked about by quite a few to get something like that together. I am pushing to get the county leaders and leaders of the different groups that mainly utilize the fairgrounds to get together for a round table and get some items dealt with. After which, putting together a community event to bring information to everyone. 

Yes there is a group working on the plans for the proposed building. I have put together a preliminary vision plan to give an idea of how the building would be utilized and am working on getting numbers together for a full business plan. 

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Has anyone made it to an Ag Society/ Fair Board meeting? 

 

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On 10/19/2023 at 10:20 AM, Chris said:

Has anyone made it to an Ag Society/ Fair Board meeting? 

 

I honestly don't know when the meetings are. 

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Glad to see the new Board is open to trying different approaches.

I'm a little surprised at the "drastically reduced" admission price.  I thought, at $5 for adults and kids free, that it was already one of the less expensive events in the area. Granted, that adds up if someone wanted to visit multiple days/nights. Maybe also offering a single admission price for the entire Fair would be worth exploring as an option.  Being free to return at a later day/time without paying each time may encourage attendance.

I really hope that fees for vendors and exhibitors stays reasonable (perhaps even a "drastically reduced" discount for local businesses and independent crafters, etc).  Increased charges that are pricing out the "little guys" is a tactic that ruins a lot of festivals and events for me. 

Browsing and supporting unique, locally made products is much more desirable than when most vendors who can afford to show up are just travelling retail distributors (the same people that will disappear and never stand by their goods....and are another event every week all over the region, selling cheap imported products that you can buy at the mall kiosks or Amazon).

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On 2/2/2024 at 8:05 AM, MsKreed said:

I really hope that fees for vendors and exhibitors stays reasonable (perhaps even a "drastically reduced" discount for local businesses and independent crafters, etc).  Increased charges that are pricing out the "little guys" is a tactic that ruins a lot of festivals and events for me. 

Yeah so the "Little Guy Vendor" ( LGV ) has to charge more if there's any hope of making a profit. Then John Q Public sees the price and puts the product down because they think it's too much ( sometimes it isn't, by the way ). LGV goes home having barely made any money, and decides not to partake again. Which leaves plenty of room for "Selling Chinese Crap & Knock Offs" ( SCCKO ) vendor, whose overhead is lower to begin with, to swoop in and be yet another in a long line of cheap, "same 'ol, same 'ol" product available. 

Then eventually, John Q Public, realizing that all there is at Event is the CCKO vendors, doesn't even bother showing up anymore.  

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I saw on the news that in addition to having local bands playing each day, the fair is also looking to feature local artisans with live displays as they craft their wares. Pretty cool idea, and a smart step in the right direction to bring things back in line with what a county fair is supposed to be about.

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Admission fees will be reduced to $2.00.  I don’t remember what was said about those under 16.  Definitely a step in the right direction.  Too bad the space for vendors under the grandstand wasn’t rebuilt.

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