Orange County wants your thoughts on a fair

tgrubb@newsobserver.comOctober 29, 2013 

  • Meeting tonight

    Orange County will hold a public meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday to hear residents’ opinions about and ideas for a possible Orange County Fair. The meeting will be held at the Solid Waste Operations Center, 1207 Eubanks Road.

    For more information, call the Department of Environment, Agriculture, Parks & Recreation at 919-245-2510.

— A county working group wants to hear what residents think about starting an Orange County Fair.

Orange County Commissioners Mark Dorosin and Renee Price led the group this summer in brainstorming ideas, costs and potential community partners. The work group also is expected to recommend members for a County Fair Advisory Committee this fall.

The first of several public meetings will be held Wednesday at the Solid Waste Operations Center, 1207 Eubanks Road. Dorosin said the group could make its preliminary report to the commissioners next month.

A county fair celebrating Orange County’s historical, cultural and artistic character could start in 2015. It could include food, arts and crafts, agricultural activities, games, local music and possibly a few carnival rides.

Dorosin said the meeting is a way to find out what makes Orange County unique, where to hold a fair and how to pay for it. Residents who can’t attend, can post their thoughts on the county’s Facebook page or email him or Price. They’re also looking for interested volunteers, nonprofit groups and vendors, he said.

“We don’t want to narrow this down before reaching out to the community,” Dorosin said.

Other questions include how the fair should be managed and what to do about parking, permits, neighbors and security. County officials have said the county-owned Blackwood Farm at N.C. 86 and New Hope Church Road, between Chapel Hill and Hillsborough, might be a good location.

It does have a number of advantages, including being centrally located, Dorosin said. However, there are no public restrooms, and it could be hard to get larger vehicles and food trucks onto the site, he said. On the other hand, the county has long-range plans for improving the farm that could be moved up, he said.

Costs are a concern

Several county commissioners expressed concern earlier this year about the start-up costs.

Although initial estimates put the cost of a fair at roughly $250,000, Dorosin said the group thinks it could be much less. The long-term goal is a cost-efficient, self-supporting fair, he said.

Orange County holds about 30 significant festivals and other events each year, according to the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau. Cooperative Extension Director Carl Matyac said a county fair could be similar to the 2003 Orange County Agricultural Heritage Festival, which celebrated the county’s 250th anniversary.

North Carolina has about 50 county and regional fairs. Some have a more traditional focus on agriculture, while others have a full midway. A smaller number, such as the Chatham County Fair, focus on community groups, local arts and culture.

Dorosin said he visited the Lee County Fair this fall and was impressed with the diversity he found, particularly the blending of traditional Southern culture with a burgeoning Hispanic culture.

Orange County’s event could start as a two-day event on Friday and Saturday, he said. People who have heard about the plan so far are positive and excited, he said.

“The goal at this point is to see if we can put something on and see what the reaction is,” Dorosin said.

Grubb: 919-932-8746

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