Fairgrounds Ready for Big Week with New Infrastructure

Grandstands have double the ADA- seating, new surfaces for fairgoers

By Molly Priddy

The Flathead County Fairgrounds are headed for their busiest time of year with the Northwest Montana Fair running from Aug. 13 to Aug. 17, and the thousands of fairgoers expected to attend will notice some differences this year.

Construction crews recently finished up the first phase of an in-depth infrastructure project on the south end of the grounds, where they replaced the storm drainage, sewer, gas and water lines and poured fresh, level asphalt along what used to be dirt walkways.

“These project started several years ago in terms of planning,” fairgrounds manager Mark Campbell said.

Another major aspect of this construction phase was the collection of improvements made to the fairgrounds grandstands, which received a new roof on all three levels; new LED lighting with an emergency backup system that powers the lights for an extra 45 minutes if the power goes out; and crews also painted the metal under-structure of the roof and the girders, which was the first time they’ve gotten a fresh coat of paint since the stands were built over 90 years ago.

But perhaps one of the most noticeable new aspects for the grandstands is the new seating that complies with ADA regulations. New concrete ramps lead to plenty of seating space with great views of the action in the arena.

“This is twice the space we had before,” Campbell said, surveying the new seating as crews worked into the afternoon last week.

Campbell said one of the most exciting new programs at this year’s Northwest Montana Fair is a partnership with Flathead Valley Community College, in which FVCC will present in the Expo building various demonstrations about its professional programs.

Thursday, Aug. 14, teachers and students from the nursing and healthcare program will deliver presentations, followed by arts and technology on Friday, and the culinary arts on Saturday.

“We entertain people and we feed people, but I like to teach them while they’re here,” Campbell said of the fair.

Also, for the first time in its 112-year history, the Flathead County Fairgrounds has taken on a business sponsor in Whitefish Credit Union. It’s a partnership that will last throughout the year, Campbell said, and it will benefit both parties.

The credit union will reap the benefit of reaching out to the community, he said, and the fairgrounds will receive monetary support for improvements and programs.

One of the first benefits the public will see of this relationship will be ticket sales at Whitefish Credit Union locations, where instead of paying $5 for a fair entry ticket, they can purchase an entry ticket for $3.

The fairgrounds will undergo construction for phase two of the underground infrastructure project soon, Campbell said; he expects the project to go out for bid in the fall.

But until then, the focus is preparing the grounds for the onslaught of family fun that is the Northwest Montana Fair, and though crews were still working away with less than a week to go, Campbell was sure the grounds would be ready.

“We’re going to make it,” he said.

For more information on the Northwest Montana Fair, visit www.nwmtfair.com.

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