The Cayuga County Fair finds itself positioned to secure almost $90,000 in new state funding announced Jan. 31 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The fair is one of 56 across New York state that qualify for a total of $5 million to be awarded through the Agricultural Fairgrounds Infrastructure Improvement Program, Cuomo announced. The sum divides into $89,285 per fair.
As the program's name suggests, the funding can support work on permanent or temporary fairground buildings, facilities or equipment used to house or promote agriculture. Each fair must submit an application to the department detailing the work it hopes to fund with the money, as well as an estimated budget.
The Cayuga County Agricultural Society, which organizes the county fair, is currently discussing what work it'd like to fund with the money, said secretary and treasurer Robin Bartholomew. Though the society would like to build a horse show arena, for instance, it's not sure such a project is within the scope of the state program.
"As of right now, we haven't made any decisions," Bartholomew said. "There are a lot of limitations on the way the money can be used."
Cuomo's office said the $5 million program is the first time in nearly a decade the state has made infrastructure improvement funds available to its county and youth fairs. For the Cayuga County Fair, it would mark the biggest capital investment in years, Bartholomew said. The fair is mostly supported by individual donations.
Its funding application isn't the only thing the Cayuga County Agricultural Society is figuring out: It also has to find somewhere to stage this year's Cayuga County Fair, Bartholomew said. After years at the Weedsport Speedway fairgrounds, the fair moved to the Weedsport Firemen's Field in 2015, only to return to the speedway in 2016.
One possibility is Emerson Park. Bartholomew said the society is scheduled to present a proposal Feb. 22 for the Owasco park to host the fair on July 8 and 9. She added that unlike last year's abbreviated fair, this year's will take place for two full days.
Another change to the fair could be in store for 2018: recombining with the Remember the Big 6 Picnic and 4-H Youth Country Fair. Cayuga County Buildings and Grounds Department Superintendent Gary Duckett said there have been about five meetings between 4-H event's organizers and the Cayuga County Agricultural Society about the two events becoming one again.
Cornell Cooperative Extension, which organizes 4-H programming, split from the county fair in 2011 due to the speedway's spatial limitations, Duckett said. The next year, it revived the name of the Big 6 Picnic, an annual summer gathering of agricultural organizations at Emerson Park that dates back to the 1950s.
The picnic, however, is not eligible for the same state funding as the Cayuga County Fair because it has not submitted an application for reimbursement with the state Department of Agriculture and Markets, a spokesperson said.
Whether the picnic and 4-H rejoin the Cayuga County Fair or the two remain separate events, Duckett believes it's in the best interest of the fair — and its state funding application — to make the move to Emerson Park.
"They need to find a home since they're the official county fair," he said, noting that the funding is limited to infrastructure improvements. "If it's here, we can apply for grant money and maybe develop some things."