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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Fair Board Has Many Changes, New President, Vice President

Issue Date: October 25, 2017

This has been a year of change in personnel for the Marinette County Fair Association and its Board of Directors.

Directors Lisa Witak, Jim Hensel and Abby Olson resigned from the 12-member Fair Board for various reasons during the course of the year. Both Witak and Hensel were veterans of many years in their Fair Board positions and had seen the Association through good years and bad.

Then at the annual meeting on Saturday, Oct. 21 there were elections to fill four board member positions whose terms had expired. The terms expiring were those of Jessica Markiewicz, Carl DeGroot, Sandy Kempka and long-time board member Chris Vieth.

There were six nominees - DeGroot, Vieth, Kempka, Douglas Witak, Dan Van De Walle and Alexis Hoida. The four successful candidates for 3-year terms were Markiewicz, Kempka, Witak and VanDe Walle.

Vieth was not returned to the board for a 3-year term and refused nomination for a two year term that was to be voted on next. Nominees for the 2-year term were Sandy Zahorik, Alexis Hoida and Jeffrey Gaffney. Hoida drew the most votes and was seated as a new board member for a 2-year term.

A single one-year term remained to be filled. Nominees were Kim Tappendorf, Jeffrey Gaffney, and Zahorik. Top vote getter was Gaffney, who was seated on the board in place of Zahorik, who had been appointed in July to fill one of the vacancies caused by the resignations.

Immediately following the annual meeting at which all Association members vote the board of directors meeting was called to order, with election of officers for 2017-2018 as the main agenda item. That election too resulted in some major turnovers.

Long-time board president Dave Gross declined nomination after names Dave Van de Walle and Rich Kempka were placed in the running. Mario Ruiz, who has been on the Fair Board only two years, was then also nominated and he accepted. Voting by secret paper ballot resulted in a five to five tie between Ruiz and Kempka, with one ballot returned blank. Ruiz' name was drawn from a hat to settle the tie.

Gross has been a member of the Fair Association for 20 years and served as president for the last 12 years.

Then Bonnie Gerner, another long-time board member and officer, was replaced as vice president by Rich Kempka. Other nominees were Dave VanDe Walle and Doug Witak, who declined the nomination.

Sandy Kempka, who was appointed secretary after Lisa Witak resigned in March, was reelected by unanimous vote as treasurer Jessica Markiewicz. There were no other nominees for either position.

The Association's annual meeting had started at noon with presentation of the treasurer's report showing the Association had a balance of $30,284.98 in all accounts as of Oct. 21. Income for the year totaled $280,157.47, and expenses totaled $280,633.90. Asked if the Fair had made money this year, Markiewicz described the $476.43 shortfall as basically a break-even bottom line. Gross noted some bills remain to be paid, and some income remains to be received. He said the treasurer's report "is a picture of finances this year as compared to last year at this time."

Gross said all Association and Fair Board minutes and agendas are posted on the Marinette County website for access by everyone.

He described this as an "interesting year" for the fair. There were no major issues this year, which he termed "kind of a rare thing." The fair itself started off really well with good weather and good attendance, and would likely have set a new record except for he rain that started early Saturday evening and continued all day Sunday. He said the Demolition Derby is getting popular again. There were 2,318 entries in the Fair this year, in youth and adult classes.

However, there were many complaints about the carnival. There was not even a ferris wheel this year. Gross said one year remains on their contract with the current carnival provider, and they are attempting to locate another company. He said a problem is that Marinette County is a long way from any fair the carnival can go to before and after it comes here, and owners like to limit travel time and expense. There is some hope that Spectrum, which provides the carnival at Gillett, may agree to come here.

A major accomplishment this year was construction of the new cattle barn, which was paid for entirely by donations, mostly from families of kids who exhibit their animals.

Gross said because of the successful fundraising the money Marinette County had allocated was or will be used for other projects, including new roofs for the small animal barn and pig barn, and renovation of the antique machinery shed. Some additional paving is to be done this fall, and in the future the old bathrooms will need to be improved.

Gross has been reporting fair projects and progress regularly to Marinette County committees. Recently the Executive Committee voted unanimously to continue economic support for the Fair. The county allocation has been $10,000 a year in recent years, plus providing some major building projects in the capital improvement fund. That money is included in the 2018 budget that comes up for discussion at the County Board meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 31, and final approval in November.

Also, the county had allocated $150,000 for the cattle barn. Since fund raising paid for the barn and a grant was obtained for the manure storage facility, after explanations by Gross the county authorized use for several other Fairgrounds improvements.

The Annual Meeting agenda also included discussion and possible action on a by law change that would prohibit members of an immediate family from serving on the Fair Board at the same time. The change, which Gross said would put into writing a long-time unwritten rule that the Fair Board had followed for years, but which has now happened a couple of times. The proposed by-law revision had been forwarded to the full Association meeting without a recommendation from the Board of Directors. Gross said several people had asked I'm to get an official rule that would prevent dual membership from the same immediate family.

Action on that motion had been scheduled prior to the Board of Director elections. Almost immediately a motion came from the floor to table the by-law revision "until we get enough directors on the board." Another speaker contended there is not enough interest now from people willing to serve on the board. Motion to table the revision until next year's annual meeting was approved by voice vote with no votes registered in opposition.

As it turned out, the elections that followed did result in some immediate family teams on the Board.

Gross said they are hoping to find ways to increase attendance, hopefully something with a big draw for Friday night. He asked for suggestions. One man suggested free admission for all veterans on Thursday night. Gross said they had tried that before, as well as offering free admission to anyone bringing donation for the food pantry.

Since 2018 will mark the Fair's 90th anniversary, Gross said they need to do something special. There was a suggestion from the floor to put a request for ideas out on Facebook, and also a suggestion to do something community oriented, like local competitions, instead of hiring entertainment. Gross agreed the donkey races had done well, but said getting them in was expensive.

There was a comment that attending the Fair has become too expensive for large families, with the need to pay for admission for everyone and parking. There were suggestions to eliminate parking fees and just accept donations instead. Gross noted the parking fees go to the organizations that handle the parking.

Items planed for next year's Annual Meeting agenda include the by-law rule banning dual family memberships on the board.

After the Association meeting ended the Fair Board meeting began. Gross noted that bills they needed to pay exceeded the money available to pay them. Gross said some of the bills could be appropriately paid from the building fund. They could then transfer $670.50 from the Premium Account, bringing that balance down to $100, and that with $1,400 from the building fund, would be enough to pay the bills. Markiewicz objected that some premiums have not yet been paid, and they need to keep enough in that account. When no one approved his suggestions, Gross moved to borrow $2,000 from the livestock reserve account and use that to pay the bills. That motion was approved by a reluctant "aye" vote, with one "nay".

All Fair Board members were authorized to attended the state convention in January, provided there are still rooms available.

Those actions were followed by election of officers, which ended with Gross and Gerner being replaced by Ruiz and Rich Kempka as president and vice president, and Sandy Kempka and Markiewicz remaining as secretary and treasurer.

Gross, before the meeting adjourned, said the Association will need to put insurance on its equipment at the fairground. He has been paying for coverage through his own personal insurance policy.

Before the meeting adjourned, Supervisor Shirley Kaufman, who serves as liaison for Marinette County Board, thanked Gross for "doing an excellent job during his many years of service as Fair Board president." That thanks received a generous round of applause.


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