Fair premiums eliminated due to county budget cuts

Polk County Fair is Aug. 7-10 at the County Fairgrounds, 520 S Pacific Hwy (99W), Rickreall

RICKREALL -- The lack of O & C timber payments has forced the Polk County Fair to eliminate premium money this year to prize winners, who will only take home ribbons and not cash.

"This is the first year we have had to face this (cutback) in many years," Fair Manager Tina Andersen said.

Ray Steele, chairman of the Polk County Fair Board, said the board recently met with county officials to discuss the effects of the new budget on the fair fund. The amount needing to be cut, $17,000, was reaffirmed July 17.

The fair receives money from the county's general fund, about $45,000 of its total budget of $168,000 this year. However, because no legislation has yet passed in Washington, D.C. to approve safety net funding for counties with O & C lands, the county has a $2.5 million budget shortfall.

To cut $17,000 from the fair budget, money for prizes, called "premiums," and stipends for superintendents, or volunteers, was eliminated. Also, advertising was cut and no commercials for the fair will air on TV, Andersen said.

Even though the federal government has until Sept. 30 to decide on timber payments, the fair is not taking any chances with its budget.

"This is just to be safe so we aren't in over our heads after the fair if the money doesn't come through," Andersen said.

The greatest loss from the cutback was the premium money, Andersen said. Every year, winners of a blue ribbon were awarded $1.50, red ribbons were awarded $1 and white ribbons were awarded 50 cents. The money earned would also help youth exhibitors pay for future projects.

On July 18, Steele sent a letter to local businesses and partners asking for monetary donations for the awards. However, Andersen said awards such as gift certificates sponsored by local businesses and private groups will still be given as they don't come from the county budget.

"(The board) is hoping the community will step up and bring the premium money back," Andersen said. "We're just trying to get through this year and see what happens from there."

Steele said losing O & C funding will mean more cuts next year, but Andersen said the losses will depend on how well the fairground does at staying booked with events year-round.

Also likely affected by the loss of timber money is the 4-H and county extension programs. Andersen said the impact of losing those two groups from the fair will be enormous.

For more information about donating to the fair, call 503-623-3048.


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