MISSOULA — Ribbon cutting for the newly remodeled Commercial Building at the Missoula County fairgrounds kicked off this summer's Western Montana Fair on Wednesday morning.
The historic building was an icon to the fairgrounds but had fallen into disrepair and was on the verge of collapse in 2018. But thanks to a 2.5 million investment, the building will stand tall for another 100 years.
A lot of time, effort, and money over the last year was put into the renovation project of the 104-year-old structure.
"We’ve invested about $2.5 million in restoring the Commercial Building, the culinary Arts Building," Missoula County Commissioner Dave Strohmaier noted. "This brings them back to their original glory, and also brings them into the 21st century.”
Strohmeyer says the hard work involved to complete this project is worth it. He believes it was important to refurbish the original building rather than tear it down and start from scratch.
“It really embodies the history and heritage of Missoula County and the Missoula County Fair. It embodies the stories that people have of this place, the physical connection with this place and simply tearing it down and building something new would really sever that umbilical cord to the past.”
The heavy timber post and beam Commercial Building was designed and built in 1915.
Jim Harmon has studied the history of the building, and says from the beginning, the Commercial Building has been a key part of the lifeblood of the fair…
“There were rows and rows of displays of agricultural products -- everything from wheat and varieties of rye to cut flowers, to vegetables," he noted. "They also highlighted students work whether it be in home economics or other sorts of work that involved agriculture.”
Western Montana Fair Director Tom Aldrich says he wanted to stay true to the roots of what the 1915 version was all about, adding that the MADE Fair is the perfect choice.
“We’re going for historic accuracy, good quality materials that will last a long time, so having something that’s really down home and local and artistic which is just perfect for the building.”
The MADE Fair will be open in the Commercial Building through Sunday