Much of work at fairgrounds completed; new restroom, pavilion structure remaining

Published 3:34 pm Wednesday, July 12, 2023

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Work at the Freeborn County Fairgrounds is progressing with all of the water, storm sewer and pavement upgrades completed and construction underway on the new restroom building, pavilion and shade structure.

Freeborn County Engineer Phil Wacholz updated the Board of Commissioners about the projects Tuesday during the board’s meeting.

Wacholz said the water and storm sewer project was mostly completed last year and will bring a more resilient and better constructed water system to the fairgrounds.

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Prior to the reconstruction, the old water main had been about 80 years old and was put in when the Grandstand was built.

Regarding the pavement, there is a fresh layer of blacktop on the pre-existing pavement throughout the grounds. Bituminous pavement was also added on the north end of the fairgrounds, and it was extended to include the U-shape of the Midway area and a few other areas where it stopped short. Some concrete work was also completed to repair damaged concrete and add some ramps.

Wacholz said the one-way exit road around the Freeborn County Historical Museum will be completed a separate year because it was found to have needed more work than originally anticipated.

With the completion of the pavement work for this year, the concrete barriers were removed from the main entrance off of Bridge Avenue next to the Freeborn County Historical Museum.

Wacholz said the contractor is still optimistic the restroom building and family pavilion near the Creative Arts & Foods and Commercial buildings will be open by this year’s fair the first week in August, though he noted he has concerns that it will be cutting it close as there have been a few delays.

He asked for the grace of the commissioners and residents.

“There’s a lot of excitement over the structure this year,” he said. “We certainly want to get it open, we’ve just run into some stumbling blocks.”

The Freeborn County Fair Board is paying $110,000 of the cost for the pavilion and shade portion of the building.

Fair Board Manager Mike Woitas said the fair board has raised about $50,000 thus far, including substantial donations from Bell Lumber & Pole Co. (Alamco Wood Products); Worth County Development Association; Freeborn, Hartland, Hayward and Nunda townships; Variety Attractions; Mason Sound; Albert Lea Moose Lodge; Emmons American Legion and IBEW.

The remaining cost will be returned to the county through sales tax generated during the fair. That money has to be invested back into the fairgrounds on improvements.

In addition, security cameras have been installed at various areas throughout the fairgrounds to help monitor usage both during the fair and throughout the year, and a transformer project was completed to give dedicated energy for the Grandstand performers. Wacholz said the project will greatly improve the dependability of the power.

They also hope to do some fencing improvements and some improvements at the Grandstand, depending on contractor availability. The county will pursue quotes and bids after the fair for those projects.

Wacholz said none of the upgrades would have been possible without the strong support from the county commissioners and their allocations. In total, the county board set aside $1.8 million for the fairgrounds projects, which came from excess fund balance.