GJCF kicks off equestrian center project

This aerial illustration of the fair’s new proposed equestrian center includes an enclosed 36-by-72 foot two-story building, a larger show arena, and the current 70-by-150 stalling barn. (Illustration submitted)

In 2010, the fairgrounds took on so much flood water that the fair had to shut down early. All concerts and exhibits were canceled for the remainder of the week. This photo shows floodwaters surrounding the horse barn and show arena. (Express file photo)

This illustration shows a close-up of the two-story that will be in front of the new, expanded show arena. The building will include restrooms, showers, a livestock office, storage, a kitchen and food stand, and seating. The north-facing façade will allow people to view the Horse Show as it’s taking place. (Illustration submitted)

This is a photo of the current horse arena at the GJCF, looking south into the fairgrounds. The arena will be replaced by a 125-by-230 foot exhibition/show arena. (Express file photo)
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     The Great Jones County Fair is set for expansion.

     Just in time for the 2017 GJCF this summer, the new and expanded horse arena (equestrian center) will be open for business.

     Groundbreaking on the various facilities is planned for mid- to late-March, with a completion date of June, just in time for the fair’s annual kick-off celebration. Fair Manager John Harms would like to hold the kick-off inside the new two-story facility.

     So what can people expect to see once construction is complete?

     The new arena where 4-H and FFA youth exhibit their horses during the fair will be 125-by-230 feet. This space will encompass the existing arena, as well as the adjacent block barn. Next to the arena will be the 70-by-150 feet stalling barn. This barn is in existence today, typically used by harness racers during fair week.

     Another new feature will be a two-story, 36-by-72 foot enclosed building. The north-facing façade will be glass, allowing the public to look out onto the arena during horse competitions.

     The building itself will include: three-season use, restrooms and shower facilities, a livestock office and storage areas, a prep kitchen and dining space, mechanical and janitorial space, and upper story viewing/dining.

     Harms said the fair board started tossing the ideas around for an expanded equestrian center about a year and a half ago, following the 2015 fair. An illustration showcasing the proposed center was on display near the horse arena this past fair. Harms said it generated some additional interest in the project.

     Then, Shaun Lambertsen of Martelle, whose family is rooted in Jones County 4-H, started spearheading the project.

     “He got emotion going, developed a concept, and pursued interest,” said Harms of Lambertsen’s push.

     During the Fair Board’s January meeting, they agreed to take on the equestrian center project and capital campaign.

     “We’ve already had some commitments of cash to start with,” said Harms.

     The building has already been ordered, with delivery expected in March.

     The expected construction cost is around $350,000.

     “It’s going to happen,” said Harms matter-of-factly.

     He said a name for the center has yet to be determined.

     Inside the building, Harms said during fair week there will an extension of the 4-H food stand, which has been housed inside the Youth Development Center. The additional restrooms will also be an added bonus for those who spend the majority of their Sundays during the fair at or near the horse arena.

     “There was a dire need for bathrooms and showers,” said Harms.

     The fair is also anticipating seasonal usage of the building, eight months out of the year. Harms said he expects creative use in terms of weddings, receptions, craft/vendor shows, implement exhibits, and more.

     “We hope to stimulate more activity here,” he said, “not just for equestrian business. This environment could be used for a lot of different things.”

     Just this past year, a local couple held their wedding reception on the stage. Another couple got married near the barns on the grounds that same day.

     As many in this area know, the fairgrounds has flooded and will likely flood again. Harms said that weather phenomenon was certainly taken into consideration when designing and building the new equestrian center.

     Sheet rock and insulation in the two-story building will start higher up on the interior walls. The roof will be insulated. Six-foot doorways on both ends of the building can be sandbagged in the instance of a flood.

     Overall, Harms said the fair wants to have a facility people can be proud to support.

     “We want the facility to be attractive and to look like it fits out here,” he said. “It’ll be really nice when it’s done. We’re addressing this with some class, something people can be proud of.” He added that an equestrian center like this is a unique feature for a county fair in a small town.

     For more information or to donate toward the new equestrian center, contact the fair office at 319-465-3275 or 319-480-0199.


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