WHITE COUNTY, Ark. – From carnival rides to rodeos and livestock shows, county fairs are a staple in the state of Arkansas.
This year most have gotten the ax because of the pandemic. This is putting many fairgrounds in danger of shutting down altogether. Now, board leaders are reaching out to state leaders for help.
White County fair board president Alan Quattlebaum thinks back to last year’s county fair and remembers a moment that will stick with him for years to come.”It’s a heritage that’s been around for 100 years.”
“She was probably seven years old and she had two little ponies and I walked up to her and asked her. I said ‘how was the fair four you and she said it was the best thing she had ever done in her life,” Quattlebaum said.
For the first time in more than 80 years, the pens will stay quiet and the seats will be empty.
“It’s been a rough go for all of us,” Quattlebaum said.
Quattlebaum said because of the pandemic they decided to cancel the White County Fair. That decision is now hitting their pocketbooks.
“Everything that we book here at our fairgrounds, all that money goes to paying our bills is what it’s for,” Quattlebaum said.
It costs $9,000 a month just to keep the grounds running.
“That’s paying our insurance paying one guy working here and also paying any other bills that we have here,” Quattlebaum said.
Now they are out a whopping $250,000 and it’s happening at fairgrounds across the state.
“I don’t want to see any of them fold up and not be able to come back,” Quattlebaum said.
Quattlebaum is working with other fair board presidents to reach out to state leaders for help.
“We’ve got a few on board that’s going in the direction to try and help us get some money to help us pay some of these expenses that we have going on right now,” Quattlebaum said.
He says losing county fairs all together is a loss felt throughout each of the 67 counties known for the livestock shows and carnivals.
“It’s been something that involved the total community in each one of the counties.”
His biggest concern goes back to that seven year old and all the other kids who look forward to the county fair each year.
“Hit me strong in my heart knowing that we made a difference in that kids life and that’s what this is all about,” Quattlebaum said.
Quattlebaum is working with. Senator Ronald Caldwell. Caldwell said he is working on a bill which will be introduced in the next legislative session. He believes it will cost the state about $2,000,000 to cover the overhead costs for all 67 fairgrounds.