Amherst fair 9

The Amherst County Fair lit up the sky for several nights in August 2019. 

The Amherst County Board of Supervisors is set to take up a proposal to provide $80,000 for the Amherst County Fair at its Dec. 3 meeting, two weeks after a previous vote on the funding request failed due to a tie. 

At the board's Nov. 19 meeting, Chairman Jimmy Ayers and Supervisor David Pugh were against the county spending $80,000 toward the fair, citing many other pressing needs in the upcoming fiscal year budget and limited dollars. Board members Kenneth Campbell and Claudia Tucker were in favor. 

Supervisor Jennifer Moore was absent from the Nov. 19 vote and because of the deadlock the matter can be revisited, according to the county.

"I'm looking forward to further discussion on how the county can support the fair," Moore said. "The event brings the community together, encourages visits to Amherst, and creates a sense of pride in our area. It's truly an event I look forward to." 

The Amherst County Fair was revived in 2018 after several decades of not being held. For the past two years it has been held on Sweet Briar Drive near U.S. 29 Business in Amherst, drawing thousands each year. 

According to figures presented to supervisors, collections at the gate for this year's event doubled, the same number of volunteers participated at 40% lower cost and in-kind donations increased 43%. Intense heat during this year's event in August drew lighter attendance from last year, affecting total receipts. 

"The Fair did end up making a small profit, but not large enough to reduce the need for county assistance for another year," a written report from County Administrator Dean Rodgers going before supervisors states. 

The Amherst County Agricultural Committee, a group of representatives from the county's farming community, formed in late 2018 and took the helm in organizing this year's event.

Jeff Floyd, chairman of the agricultural committee, recently told supervisors fair organizers and volunteers pulled together as a tight nit group and persevered through weather challenges. 

"It was definitely a learning curve for us but we all worked together to put on a successful event," Floyd said. 

The committee is requesting $40,000 for operational expenses and $40,000 to contract for a full-time fair director's position. 

The fair is expected to move to Winton Farm, an 18-hole golf course and country club on more than 250 acres on Virginia 151 in northern Amherst County, if held in 2020. 

Positive discussions are ongoing with Dave McCormack, owner of Waukeshaw Development, Inc., the company that now operates Winton, and surrounding property owners, according to Rodgers. 

"The layout of Winton will eliminate the need for shuttle busing, as many deputies, and reduced hours for the fair," Rodgers wrote to supervisors ahead of the Dec. 3 meeting. 

The fair director contract has ended and it is past time to begin soliciting vendors and sponsors for next year's event, along with preparing Winton as a site to receive the fair. 

Ayers expressed concern the event is not self-sustaining going into a potential third year and the board is being asked to contribute its highest total yet. 

"Where's it going to stop?" Ayers said. 

Rodgers is asking the board to match its prior year contribution of $60,000 from the county's unobligated general fund and use the remaining $20,000 from the supervisors' budget line for professional consultation services. 

The board's Dec. 3 meeting is set for 1 p.m. at the county administration building, 153 Washington St. 

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Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.

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