ALPENA - Last November the Alpena County Agriculture Society/Fair Board was granted one year by the board of commissioners to straighten out its financial issues and to smooth tensions with the local 4-H, or be replaced by a different board formed by the county.
During Tuesday's commissioners meeting Fair Board Treasurer Katie Bleau updated the commissioners on the past year, announced a change in the date of the 2013 fair and paid back the remainder of the money the board owed the county for a small financial bailout.
Bleau said there were several things that needed to be done in order to stabilize the fair board's finances and host a more successful fair. She said the board had to watch how it spent its money and also improve its relationship with 4-H. She said these things have been addressed and with about $24,000 in several funds, things are moving in the right direction headed into 2013.
"We were very frugal this year and we did a lot more fundraising than what we had done in the past," Bleau said. "We did a bunch of different things to raise money and I think the current financial condition we are in now is sustainable."
The date of the fair the past several years has generated a lot of concern from the public. It has been held on Labor Day weekend and the days leading up to the holiday. Bleau said in 2013 the date of the fair will be held in the early part of August and a new carnival company, will take over operations for a year.
"The Alpena County Fair will begin on Aug.3 with the carnival being set up on Aug. 6 through Aug. 10," Bleau said. "I think the change of date is going to help the attendance because now we won't have to compete with the last weekend of summer and the traditional plans people make for that weekend. I think by us changing the date of the event has helped us to lend some credibility from 4-H, the county and the community."
The fair board entered into a one-year agreement with Schmidt Amusement to handle the carnival portion of the fair in 2013. Bleau said people who attended the Nautical Festival in Rogers City or the Montmorency County Fair would have had a preview of what the company has to offer. She said if things goes well, a longer contract could be signed with Schmidt Amusements.
"It is a new situation, so you never want to enter into a long term deal right away, but the company has expressed interest in partnering and having a longer relationship," Bleau said. "If that were to happen then we could keep the dates that are set for 2013 for the foreseeable future."
As far as the relationship between the fair board and 4-H, Bleau said the date change helped bring the two sides closer together and she hopes the stress between the two entities will remain in the past.
"The relationship is going well and we have rebonded our partnership," Bleau said. "We made some concessions and they made some concessions. Really the biggest hurdle was the Labor Day date."
When the fair board was granted a year to clean up its finances and rebuild the relationship with 4-H some of the commissioners weren't sure if the conditions could be met. Chairman Cam Habermehl said he is pleased with the work that has been done so far and expects it to continue.
"They have paid us back in full and still have money in their fund balance to start next year with, which is awesome," Habermehl said. "They have done a great job and I think the new date of the fair will only improve it as well."
Bleau said everybody involved knew there was hard work that needed to be done and that she is proud of what has been accomplished. She said she thinks things can get even better yet.
"We knew we were really going to have to bring it this year and I think we did that," Bleau said. "I think this is more than sustainable, because now we are going to focus more on corporate sponsors, which was something we really didn't do much of in the past."
Bleau said the Alpena County Agriculture Society will host its annual meeting at 7 p.m. tonight in the Merchant's Building at the fairgrounds and plans already are being made for the 2013 fair. She said she encourages anyone who has ideas, concerns involving the fair or would like to volunteer, to contact the fair board.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.