Rocking the Defiance County Fair

The new Defiance County Fair grandstand will host two to three times more events than the old grandstand in the past.

By Matt Reese

In the past, when there was a major event really rocking the grandstand at the Defiance County Fair, the grandstand was really rocking, and not is a positive way.

“The stands creaked and groaned. People were actually scared to go in them, and if you saw what it looked like underneath them, you’d have been scared too,” said Earl Klepper, Defiance County Fair Board member. “It was around 135 years old and it was on its last legs. It had been condemned by the state multiple times and every year we were trying to patch up the old grandstands.”

The aged structure with hand-hewn beams held together with pegs had plenty of memories tied to it, but it was time for it to go according to Klepper and many in the community.

To quantify the growing concern about the old grandstand, the Defiance County Fair Foundation took a community poll to determine where to focus their fund raising efforts.

“We had a questionnaire developed to see what people wanted and the grandstand was the No. 1 thing,” said Tom Breininger, president of the Defiance County Fair Foundation. “”We employed Phoenix Consulting out of Columbus who put together a plan to raise the money.”

Breininger and the Foundation worked with county commissioners, individuals and businesses from around the county to put together a great pot of money for the project.

“In 10 months, we raised close to $800,000 for the project,” Breininger said. “I think that kind of support is outstanding, especially with the way this economy is. When you can raise that kind of money it really shows broad support from the whole county.”

With the initial funding and a plan in place for a new grandstand, the old structure was really rocking for the last time at the 2010 Defiance County Fair. Locals donated their time and equipment for the tear down effort around a month after the fair in mid September. The site was leveled, old concrete was removed and the initial construction was wrapped up by early November.

“The response has been really positive,” Breininger said. “There have been people down here watching the progress the whole time.”

With the new, 1,900-seat covered grandstand in place, fairgoers no longer need to worry about their safety when watching the expanded lineup of events in the up-to-date facility.

“There aren’t many grandstands as up to code with wheelchair accessibility and lighting requirements,” Breininger said. “The next step is adding restrooms and donor recognition areas.”

A summer festival that made use of the new grandstand has already been held at the grounds and the County Fair this week will be making good use of the new and dramatically improved facility.

During the fair going on this week, visitors can pile into the new grandstands to see events including: W.A.R. Wrestling; bull riding; Defiance County Idol; MMA Cage Fighting; Presentation of Colors; an antique tractor Jr. Fair youth organization parade; the crowning of 4-H royalty; the popular Parade of Bands; the Fairview Young Farmers Pig Catch; harness racing; the Xtreme Cheer Challenge; Truck Pull; and the Demolition Derby.

“The Defiance County Idol had the whole grandstands shaking last year. The bull riding should be pretty popular this year and the Parade of Bands and the demolition derby are always popular,” Breininger said. “And while other fairgrounds are moving away from working with horses, we are trying to do more with racing horses. Our board is reorganizing things to make it work better with having races here. We’re close to Indiana, which is big into horse races, and they are popular. And, this is one of the nicer half-mile tracks in the state.”

The area underneath the new grandstands allows for new display space as well, providing new options for vendors at the fair. It also provides a venue for events outside of the fair.

“The Fair Board has committed to making use of this facility during the feasible months,” Breininger said. “They’re looking at all kinds of things to do here. This facility had to come first and now that we have it, things are wide open with what we can do here.”


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