Carnival games, rides and exhibits will not be coming to Orange County next year after the county’s board of commissioners voted Thursday against moving forward with creating a county fair.
The proposal, defeated by a margin of four to three, would have created a two-day county fair at Blackwood Farm Park off N.C. Highway 86.
The commissioners against the fair — Earl McKee, Penny Rich, Bernadette Pelissier and Alice Gordon — said making sure the county’s budget addresses basic concerns first and that the county-owned Blackwood Farm property is used appropriately were their two main concerns.
“I was not comfortable taking on a new project like this knowing that there will be other needs for core functions of our government,” McKee said.
The board is expecting an education funding cut from the state, and those shortcomings need to be filled before he would consider funding a county fair, McKee said.
Commissioner Renee Price, who voted in favor of the proposal, said she believes the fair would be worth the cost.
“It’s always going to be a risk,” Price said. “We’re working to make sure it at least breaks even, and I do think there is a lot of interest in the county for a fair.”
The proposal by Price and Commissioner Mark Dorosin pegged the costs of the fair as between $187,000 and $244,000. Expected revenue was projected at $189,000.
McKee said he thought the projections didn’t look realistic.
But Dorosin said he felt the vote against the proposal came too soon.
“I think the concerns brought up were short sighted and premature and the vote cut short any ability to test or vet those numbers more,” he said.
Jacobs, who was involved in the creation of a master plan for the park, said he felt it was an excellent site for the fair.
“It has already hosted some events for the county and it is close to Chapel Hill, Carrboro and other populated parts of the county,” Jacobs said.
He said proposed site improvements ahead of the fair were included in the master plan.
Pelissier said she felt the priority for the park should be long-term plans and ensuring it can be used year-round.
“If you’re building a library, you don’t build the meeting rooms without the rest of the library,” Pelissier said.
While the proposal was defeated, supporters of the fair said community feedback has inspired them to fight for it.
“This is an event that could bring together all parts of the county, rural and urban,” Dorosin said.
“Of all the things I’ve heard, people are most excited about the idea of a fair. So I will continue to flesh it out and bring it back to the commission.”
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