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For one sunny week in the middle of September, the local fairgrounds in the college town of Moscow, Idaho – located in the rolling hills of the rich agricultural Palouse region - is transformed into a bustling hub of activity during the Latah County Fair. Approximately 25,000 local families take part in the fair, an admission-free event that is a community-focused celebration of the special qualities of life in Latah County. The fair is just one of a myriad of events held at the Latah County Events Center throughout the year. This events center is the go-to destination for all event space needs of the community including meetings, public shows, entertainment, fundraising activities, educational opportunities and more. The Events Center is committed to providing a quality space for the citizens of the Palouse to gather and enjoy their communities.
For many people, going to the local fair may be as close as they ever get to livestock; a fair exhibit may be the only education they have on how area crops are grown. Presenting a unique opportunity to educate the public in a fun environment, the Latah County Fair has been providing an excellent fairgoer experience since 1911.
This year at the fair a remodel was revealed in the form of upgrades to animal barns and show/sale areas, as well as new panels for livestock alleyways and traffic patterns, thanks to funds granted by AgWest Farm Credit’s Local Advisory Committee Guided Stewardship program. The new panels and pens provided a safe and appealing environment for the approximately 380 total animal exhibitors who showed about 50 beef animals, 45 sheep, 55 goats, 20 chickens, 20 rabbits and 190 pigs.
Jim Logan is the director of the Latah County Fair and Events Center and was thrilled when he got word that the funding was approved. “I had the order placed within 24 hours of being told we were receiving funds. All the panels came from the North 40 store in Lewiston, and when I turned in that order, they just routed the truck straight to us to unload first because most of the semi was ours.”
One of the major uses for the new panels was to upgrade the Show and Sale Barn , which acts as the auction ring as well as the swine show arena. The old system was a fixed fence (permanent) system. The walkway was only two feet wide, forcing people to climb over each other to get into the bleachers. If spectators wanted to go from the bleachers on one side of the building to the bleachers on the other side, they had to come all the way out of the building and walk around.
With the new system, the permanent fence was removed and replaced with a portable show and sale arena, and compacted gravel walkways were added that are twice as wide. A new announcer stage was built, and the barn is now much more accommodating of multi-use functions that can happen year-round.
Additional improvements were also made to the livestock area behind the livestock barns, the West Arena. The new configuration of panels allows easier and safer access by the public. Spectators are behind a secure fence, which allows good visibility of the show but keeps people safe at the same time.
The improvements to the West Arena have meant a change in the show schedule – for the better.
“This has allowed us to change our show schedule because it used to be sheep and goats were at the same time as beef - so everyone was competing for the PA system, wash rack space, competing for attention, all of it. With the new panels and setup, they have a nice big new holding pen, and an even bigger arena. And now we can have our beef show in the afternoon, and sheep and goats go in the morning.”
The new lightweight and mobile panels mean that multiple configurations are possible throughout the year – for everything from a dog show or jackpot steer show to a private event or community gathering. This will have a big impact on the different events as well as the fair and the community all year round – and even in case of emergency.
“If we need to become an evacuation center, it’s something that we can do easily now. These panels are all light enough that even some of our smaller kids can unhook and move them on their own if there's someone to direct traffic. I could have this arena down and out of here or reconfigured in about 20 minutes, and it’s rated for all large livestock.”
The funds were also used to upgrade the floor in the rabbit and poultry barn from dirt to concrete, and market turkeys now enjoy new state-of-the-art pens.
So what will it cost to get into the Latah County Fair next year and see these improvements? Nothing. According to Logan, the fair is a community resource that is funded by the community taxpayers and other revenue streams, like the year-round campground, event center revenue, vendor fees and carnival revenues. So if you are looking for a down-home, friendly fair that is passionate about agriculture education, ferocious about supporting youth livestock projects and serious about having fun, check out the Latah County Fair next September. You won’t be disappointed.
Stewardship investments at AgWest are guided in part by its customers, including Local Advisory Committee members, who live in and understand the needs of rural communities. LAC members serve as a liaison between AgWest and their customers and communities and help to ensure stewardship investments are made in a variety of ways that will help rural communities - like those in Latah County - thrive.