MISSOULA — The Missoula County Fairgrounds will be seeing a host of new updates in the coming years and with a new exhibit center, 4H families are especially eager to have a new space to call home.
Fairgrounds board member Jon Turner told MTN News these updates will be a game-changer for current and future 4Hers as bit by bit, plans for the Missoula County Fairground’s redevelopment are unfolding.
Turner says that for the 4H families who pour hours of work into the county fair, the updates are pretty exciting, "words can’t even express the opportunities that the kids in 4H now are gonna have."
4H members have shared space at the fairgrounds with Glacier Ice Rink for years, moving into the space for a week each summer, subsequently halting ice rink operations for the time it takes to replace the sheets of ice with show rings.
"We get sawdust in places where they shouldn’t have sawdust in their facility," Turner said. "They’re very gracious to let us use that space during the week of the fair."
But that sawdust and ice won’t be mixing for much longer as the second phase of the fairgrounds redevelopment plan is in the works.
Fairgrounds officials released the results of a survey focused on redevelopment, and that survey found broad support for a range of projects, all of which were met with enthusiasm by county commissioners.
"I was really excited to hear such broad support for the fairgrounds as part of Missoula County. Great support for our sense of heritage and agriculture, and support for our youth and recreational sports. All of these kind of reflect my understanding of who Missoula is and we’re a place that cares about ourselves," said Missoula County Commissioner Josh Slotnick.
The future of the fairgrounds includes 19 total acres of open space, a new livestock center, rodeo arena, ice rink, and an exhibit center. Turner says having a dedicated space for 4H will do wonders for the program.
"A lot of times it’s hard to get a facility where you can walk around a ring with your steer, where’s a ring for the pigs, and you gotta get used to riding with your animal in the trailer from one place to the next. Now it will be available in town," said Turner.
Turners hopes that having a space of their own will invigorate current 4H members and also get other kids to hop on board. "More importantly I think it’s gonna give that visibility for more students. There is no limit on the number of kids that can be in 4H," said Turner.
This year's Western Montana Fair runs from Aug. 5 through Aug. 9 in Missoula.