Holdrege Area Chamber of Commerce
This Week Feature
2013 Annual Report
Phelps County Ag Society Works Hard Year Round
by Jean Issler
The Phelps County Agriculture Society is event planner, fundraiser and lessor of indoor and outdoor spaces.
Clark Nelson of Funk is the president of the Ag Society. He has been on the board since 1999 and has been president for three years. He said the Ag Society is a little misunderstood.
"A lot of people call it the fair board and think that the county fair is all we do," Nelson said. "But there's a lot more to it."
The Phelps County Agricultural Society does put on the Phelps County Fair annually in July. In addition, the Ag Society is responsible for virtually everything at the county fairgrounds.
The county owns the land, and the Ag Society uses it on a long-term lease. The Society owns and operates the structures on the fairgrounds, such as the Phelps County Ag Center at 1308 2nd Street in Holdrege belongs to the Ag Society. It houses the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Service, and the Ag Society.
In addition, the Ag Society leases offices to Central Community College, the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, and the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles. Nelson said the board handles the leases for these agencies and works with the tenants to help them make changes and improvements as needed in their offices.
In addition, the Ag Society rents out other areas of its building. It would be rare to find a resident of the county who has not been to a show, meeting, banquet, class or meal in one of the Ag Center rooms: the Big Room, Middle Room, Education Room or Kitchen.
Nelson said the outdoor spaces are leased out as well. The horse arena and other areas of the fairgrounds are rented out for special events.
Becton Dickinson Field, baseball field, is owned by the Ag Society, but the American Legion maintains it for Legion ball games.
Planning the county fair each year takes the whole year. The fair is held in late July. Nelson said in the month following the end of the fair, a special meeting is held. The ag board members meet and invite their spouses and other staff and concerned parties. The finished fair is discussed and suggestions are taken for the next year. More discussion about the fair goes on at the board's monthly meeting. The board starts booking performers, special booths, and the carnival in November and December.
The Ag Society works closely with the 4-H Council and the Extension Service to facilitate the 4-H and other projects and shows that go on at the fair. It also works with the state to coordinate the Pioneer Farm Awards presentations.
Nelson revealed an overview of this year's county fair schedule. The July 19-24 events will include:
Saturday: team-roping competition
Sunday: ranch rodeo, dog show, Sunday Night at the Fair: Big Al Weekly (no charge)
Monday: beef show, carnival Monday-Wednesday
Tuesday: pig scramble, hog show
Wednesday: demolition derby, sheep show
Thursday: livestock auction
The NASCAR simulator and Poppin' Penelope, the balloon animal artist, will be back this year. Nelson said the board is always looking for new and different acts for the fair and will have other sideshow comedians and food booths on the grounds.
Booths that promote agriculture are going to be added to the mix this year, said Nelson. The board wants to add a focus on ag business to educate everyone--farm and non-farm folks.
The board is also working at improving the fairgrounds for the public's benefit, according to Nelson. Past improvements have included remodeling of the Big Room with new walls, lights and air conditioning.
A new FFA building was put up two years ago. Currently the Ag Society is working on plans for a new beef barn. Nelson said they will take down two old barns and replace them with one larger barn.
He said this project will be funded almost totally through grants and Give 2 Grow donations.
The Ag Society is funded in part by the county, but Nelson said the fair and the improvements to the fairgrounds and funded by a lot of private money.
For improvements like the beef barn, the board applies for grants from places like the Phelps County Community Foundation, the late Roy Pearson grants, and Monsanto.
The balance of the Ag Society funding comes from sponsors who buy banners to display during the county fair, and from donations. Nelson said the businesses of Phelps County are generous about the fairgrounds and the livestock auction.
"Area businesses are very supportive of the livestock auction and we appreciate that," said Nelson. The auction is traditionally the last event of the fair. The livestock raised by the 4-H kids is sold off as the last task in their 4-H project.
For information about the county fair or the Phelps County Agriculture Society, call Elaine Redfern on Tuesdays at 995-6319.
Members of the Ag Society board are Clark Nelson, Duane Schoff, Becky Crandall, Richard Waller, Kyle Edgren, Becky Harris, Mark Kreutzer, Chadd Jacobson, Joe Larson, Nate Lindstrom, Jeff Morten, and Dan Taylor.