It may be the off season for the Washington County Agricultural Fair, but the fairgrounds have never been busier.

Construction is slated to begin on Hall 1 to renovate the restrooms and install air conditioning, and the project should be complete in the fall.

“During the summer months, we have a lot of cash bashes and different events where we could have 500 to 1,000 people in that hall. These changes would make life a lot nicer than sitting in there trying to have some fans blow through or the large garage doors open,” Wayne Hunnell, director of WCAF and secretary of the fair board, said. “We think it will enhance the experience for everyone, particularly during the August and September months.”

Hunnell said the board has received complaints about the lack of air conditioning in Hall 1.

“That has been the largest complaint we’ve had regarding people renting Hall 1 for various events,” he said.

Hunnell said that the fair board recently received approval for funds from the local share account and the Washington County Commissioners for the engineering costs of constructing an equestrian center on the grounds.

“To be able to go out for bid, we have to have all the engineering done in terms of surveying and permitting,” Hunnell said. “All of that work has to be done ahead of time, so we know what we have to do when we go out for bid.”

Hunnell said the goal is to construct the equestrian center on a section of land known as the large parking lot near Hickory Ridge Road and Main Street.

“The barn would be a 300-foot by 150-foot structure. It would be wide open inside and allow us to have barrel racing, poles, and other types of equestrian events,” Hunnell said.

Plans are underway to set up three pole barns that are 70 feet by 200 feet in size nearby. These barns would enable WCAF to rent out 240 stalls for horses. The location offers plenty of parking space and provides easy access for trailers and the accompanying traffic during events.

“This is something that would be a huge benefit to the county,” Hunnell said. “Because when competitors are coming in, you’ve got the local restaurants and hotels benefitting from that.”

Hunnell said the funds must be approved at the state level and he hopes to hear good news in the next few months.

By midsummer, Hunnell expects the addition of an enclosed historic barn and a neighboring 25-foot pavilion built from reclaimed barn timbers to be available to the public for events. CNX Foundation is funding the reconstruction of the historic barn in front of the John White House. According to Hunnell, the barn has already been disassembled and is currently at the fairgrounds.

“We just submitted the changes we need in the zoning to Chartiers Township for a setback variance. Assuming it gets approved, we hope to be breaking ground in May or June,” he said.

Hunnell said that the recent additions will showcase the rich historical past of Washington County.

“This gives it historical value. Some of the old barns were great structures with wooden pegs holding beams together instead of nails. It’s amazing. The Washington County History & Landmarks Foundation is also working with us on this,” he said.

While there’s still plenty of work to do, Hunnell looks forward to what’s next for The Fair.

“It is supposed to be the slow time of year for us, but it is far from being slow,” he said. “All of this sure does keep us busy.”

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