County Fairgrounds to expand

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By Daniel Lapham,

The Canadian County Free Fair just celebrated its 60th year and members of the board who oversee the event were busy over the four-day fair asking people about the next 60 years.

Members of the fair board were on hand during the fair, passing out and collecting surveys asking county residents their thoughts on a possible new fairgrounds. Fair board vice chair Dan Wedman said more than 100 surveys were turned in during the fair.

“Right now we are looking at doing some more survey work across the county to get more information on public interest,” Wedman said. “We have an independent firm that has offered to donate services to tabulate the survey results so we can have all of the information together to present to the public.”

The current fairgrounds was built in the 1950s, on North Country Club in El Reno. With about seven acres, the site is fairly well landlocked. Wedman said for now the main goal is to get an idea of what Canadian County residents might want in the way of a new fairgrounds.

“Once we get their input, then the fair board can react with what the public wants. We do know the size of the county has grown exponentially,” Wedman said. “If we want to stick our heads in the sand we can, but if we want to keep up with the growth of the county, we need to look at our potential growth.”

The survey asked questions like “Do you think renovated or new facilities would better serve existing and attract new events?” and “Do you think relocation of the fairgrounds to a larger, more accessible site should be considered?”

Wedman said right now 75 to 80 percent of the survey-takers were in favor of better, newer accommodations and a location that is more accessible.

“If we are going to build for the future, we need to build in an area that will allow for future growth,” he said. “We are asking questions about what areas do you use and how many times do you attend a year? We, as a fair board, are excited about where we are. All three of our county commissioners are on board and are pushing forward to find out the information we need to better serve the Canadian County community.”

The idea for a new fairgrounds has been discussed for several years. In 2007, members of the fair board talked about possibly locating a new fairgrounds on county-owned land, just east of the Gary Miller Children’s Justice Center on state Highway 66. Fair board members have said other locations are being considered as well.