Apr 30, 2015

New fair board looks to future

“It’s going to be a lot of work here, but we’re ready.”

Those were the words of Steve Martin, who was elected the new president of the Park County Fair Board at a special Tuesday night meeting.

New fair board president Steve Martin discusses some livestock pens during Tuesday's meeting while (from left) fair board member Teecee Barrett, county events coordinator Echo Renner and board member Sara Skalsky look on.
The meeting laid out a new path for the fair — one intended to include better communication. Going forward, the board plans to have quarterly meetings with commissioners and to have a representative from the county’s buildings and grounds department — which maintains the fairgrounds — at every board meeting.

Conflict between commissioners and the board, and between fair board-directed staff and buildings and grounds staffers, culminated this year with commissioners replacing the fair director, who answered to the board, with a county events coordinator, who answers to the commission. That, in turn, led to three fair board members resigning in frustration earlier this month. They also let go of Fair Director Jennifer Lohrenz, who commissioners had hoped would help with the transition through June.

Tuesday was the first meeting for the three replacement board members picked by commissioners last week: Troy Wiant of Cody (who declined a nomination for president and was named vice president), Sara Skalsky of Powell (who became treasurer) and Teecee Barrett of Powell. Powell resident Kim Barhaug remains the board’s secretary.

President Martin, also of Powell, called for everyone to work as a team.

“My goal is that, everybody in here, we’re all working together. We’re all in this together. We’re going to make this thing work,” he said.

Commissioner Tim French told the board that commissioners want regular meetings so everyone is on the same page and that a line of communication is kept open. French asked the board to contact the commission “if there’s something bugging you or (there’s) something the commissioners are doing, or vice versa.”

“My goal is that, everybody in here, we’re all working together. We’re all in this together,” new president Martin said.

Park County Events Coordinator Echo Renner pledged to do anything she can to help the board.

“Even though things have changed a little bit and there’s not a fair manager anymore ... and I’m not employed by the fair board — of all the events I do, the fair obviously is the biggest one,” Renner said. “I’m at your disposal.”

Similarly, Park County Buildings and Grounds Superintendent Mike Garza said there's a consensus among his crew that they’ll do what they can to help create a successful fair season.

“I know you guys are in a tough spot right now — especially being a stone’s throw away from the fair,” Garza told the board.

Steve Martin and Park County Commissioner Tim French walk past the new multi-use facility that's now under construction.
The board members said they hope to be kept in the loop about projects undertaken on the grounds (with Wiant serving as a liaison) and they want to compile a fairgrounds “wish list.”

In one change, Renner said her expanded position of handling events around the county won’t give her time to do the fair’s bookkeeping like the fair director had done. Rather than hire an accountant, the board opted to have office manager PJ Chouinard take over the work.

“I just want to thank all you guys for stepping up. It’s appreciatedm” commissioner French later told those at the meeting.

Part of the special meeting consisted of business that couldn’t be handled at the regular April 14 meeting, when former board members Mike Demoney, Linda Nielsen and Robby Newkirk walked out and left the body without a quorum.

The new board supported Powell High School student Tyson Wages’ idea to build a couple dozen benches for the fair as an Eagle Scout project. They also unanimously declined a request from Big Horn County to borrow up to 175 livestock pens for their fair.

“I’d love to help them out, but it’s going to cost us a lot of money, and the (swine) barn would never be the same again,” Martin said.

The most pressing need for this year’s Park County Fair in July is to find around 15 more superintendents to oversee events ranging from visual arts to culinary arts to youth horse shows. Superintendents are volunteers who help organize, schedule and run each department.

“If they don't help with it, you don’t have a fair,” Martin said of their importance. “It’s just that simple.”

Anyone interested in serving as a superintendent should contact Chouinard at 754-5421.

Fair board members were presented with some gifts from Renner (a cloth cooler and a picnic blanket) at the start of the meeting as a token of appreciation.

“I just want to thank all you guys for stepping up,” French later said to the board members, Renner, Garza and Chouinard, adding, “It’s appreciated.”

The board will have its next regular meeting on May 12 at 7 p.m.

~By CJ Baker


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