Delaware County Fairgrounds former glory restored with new grandstand
By Rick Yencer
MUNCIE, IN - John Wright recalled his first visit as a child to the Delaware County Fair in 1929 when his father drove the horse-drawn water wagon around the grandstand track before a harness race.
"It took a long time to take that wagon around," said Wright, a longtime fair board member and 4-H Club director. "I have been around a long time."
Wright along with other fair board members and supporters took great pride Thursday dedicating the new grandstand just as the Delaware County Fair gets underway. And the first event at the new steel and concrete structure will be the yearly 4-H horse and pony pull that accompanies the arena show.
About 50 people tried out the new facility and its picnic area that was dedicated after the county put up nearly $1 million to tear down the old grandstand that was dedicated when the fair was 100 years old in 1952 and build the new facility.
It was fair board member Larry Clendenin that raised the question of the old structure's integrity after the State Fair stage tragedy Structural problems were found and the county quickly took steps to replace it.
James Mansfield, fair board president, and local director of the Muncie Visitors Bureau, lauded the many people and institutions responsible for making the new grandstand happen, including Star Financial Bank, that extended credit for the project, Pridemark Construction, the prime contractor; First Merchants Insurance that protects the property, and countless other businesses and contractors on the job.
Wright said the grandstand was the biggest improvement at the fairgrounds, topping Heartland Hall, and other exposition buildings constructed there since the non-profit fair board took over its operation from the local Lions Club.
Before that, the Delaware County Agricultural and Mechanical Society made up of community business and agricultural leaders ran the fair and all its facilities for more than a century since its beginning in 1852.
That great Muncie Star columnist Richard Greene wrote a history of the Delaware County Fair on its 100th anniversary in 1952. A copy of that report was distributed by Jane Lasater, fair board vice president and county recorder.
Greene reported a strong and healthy fair in 1952 when Delaware County had 901 stores, warehouses and business with a sales volume of $77 million. The value of all products manufactured 60 years ago was $72 million according to U.S. Bureau of Census reports.The number of farms was 2,359 with the value of all farm products more than $10 million.
That history was not lost on Mansfield who mentioned that the late John Hartmeyer of the former Marhoefer's Packing Co. was fair board president in 1952.
On Thursday, the livestock barns came alive with animals as more 4-H competitions begin. The 4-H Horse and Pony Show begins Saturday morning along with the pull in the grandstand.
And the carnival comes to the fair on Monday as a new $2 gate fee starts with $5 car charge. Look for the yearly Band Day competition to return on July 19 while the popular livestock auction will be held July 18.
Thousands are expected to attend for food, fun and farm events along with other special events like demolition derby, moto cross and live music.