Fairgrounds project a community-wide effort

By Dean Shipley

July 2, 2014

The 125th annual Madison County Fair will soon launch a new era of enthusiasm the likes of which have not been experienced in many a year.

The numerous changes and updates — made possible through a private and public initiative — will be highlighted during fair week, July 6-12, on the grounds along Elm Street in London.

A glance at the grounds reveals the product of a flurry of hard work and investment dollars.

Gone are two worn out, aged buildings: the old floral building and the arena, which sat in tandem and were visible from Elm Street. In their places are two sparkling new structures, which will be recognized during the official opening of the fair at noon, Sunday, July 6.

At that time, the Madison County Agricultural Society and the junior fair sales committee will dedicate the Eby Arena and Coughlin Community Building. They are so named for the donors, the M.H. Eby Co. and the Coughlin Automotive Group. Each business gave $50,000 toward the project, said Doug Peterman, spokesman for the Ag sales committee.

Madison County Commissioners kicked off the community initiative to make capital improvements to the county fairgrounds by pledging $2 for every $1 donated by a business or individual.

Businesses and individuals heard about that initiative from members of the sales committee, who literally took their message of need out into the community.

Peterman said the sales committee “got legs” and moved throughout the community expressing the needs they had compiled. They went out singing “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” if not on their lips, certainly in their minds. Peterman, Duane Powell, Darrell Champer, chair, Matt Higgins, Joe Henry, Tony Xenikis, Dave Burchett and Tim Beathard ventured into the community seeking its help.

And it came.

Doug Deaver, vice-president of the Ohio Division of MH Eby, said making the donation was a decision to be a part of the community-wide effort to revitalize the fairgrounds.

“It’s a great thing for the youth and the county,” Deaver said. “It’s a good fit for our business, a good thing for the kids.

The company manufactures livestock trailers and regularly deals with the agriculture community.

Tom Coughlin recognized the junior fair sales committee was committed to making the fairgrounds a better place. He described Tony Xenikis and fellow committee members as “taking the bull by the horns” to make a difference.

“With the county commissioners being progressive, match two dollars for one, then you get the community to believe in the fairgrounds,” Coughlin said. “The businesses have to jump in. If you don’t, you’re not doing your part.

“They’re making the fairgrounds into something to be proud of. As a business that gives back — Coughlin Automotive gives back 365 days a year — we want to help the fairgrounds.”

Peterman said around $470,000 has been donated to fund not only construction of the two new buildings, but also fix-ups and renovations of existing structures.

Right out front is the Della Selsor Building. It’s wearing a new “face” thanks to some fresh paint and re-configuration of the landscaping. Inside of the building, which also houses the OSU Extension, received fresh paint, renovations to banquet room, restrooms, HVAC and kitchen areas.

The sheep arena had a new floor poured and it also received the bleachers, which formerly held fans in the old main arena.

Peterman invites the community to attend this year’s 125th annual Madison County Fair so it can see for itself the fresh new look put forth by their neighbors. His hope is when they view the new buildings and the freshening of numerous others on the ground, they will want to become involved.

“It’s been more of a community effort than a fairgrounds effort,” Peterman said. “The support throughout the county has been overwhelming. This transformation of the facilities and agricultural society will certainly promote agriculture and support our youth in Madison County for years to come.”

The oldest portions of the current fairgrounds were purchased in 1854 and the horse track property was annexed in 1889. The original funds for improvements and buildings was received from the county commissioners and the city of London in 1890.

For a more complete history, visit this website:

Dean Shipley can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 1617 or via Twitter @DeanAShipley.