Fair board anxiously awaits start of two of its biggest projects

LISBON – Two major projects at the Columbiana County Fairgrounds may be underway shortly.

The fair board has been discussing plans for construction of the grandstand and a new pedestrian bridge from the north end of the fairgrounds.

“I don’t know too much about when exactly they will start,” grandstand committee co-chairman Robin Houlette said. “We have Dant Clayton getting ready to work, and once we get state approval, they’ll get started.”

Dant Clayton Corp. of Louisville, Ky. was selected by the fair board to construct the new grandstand following the demolition of the 160-year-old original wooden grandstand Dec. 14.

After crews worked to clean up and smooth out the land for the past three months, Dant Clayton now looks to lay down the first pillars to build the grandstand.

“The site is ready for construction,” Houlette said. “Hoping that the weather will cooperate, they can go ahead and get to work.”

Houlette noted, however, that state approval will be needed before construction begins, but he and the rest of the fair board hopes to hear approval soon.

“Hopefully if we get word about it … we can start work either in the middle or the end of April,” Houlette said. “There are lots of people who are anxious for this project and have been helpful in making this happen.”

Houlette’s fellow committee chairman, Paul Lease, also expressed delight in anticipation of the long-awaited project.

“There’s not one person who is not ecstatic about it,” Lease said. “This is one of the biggest projects that we have ever undertaken in the fair’s history, maybe the biggest. I’m so excited about this. This is going to be a phenomenal feat.”

Another major project in sight is construction of a new pedestrian walkway at the north end of the fairgrounds.

The steel-arch bridge that formerly sat over Little Beaver Creek in downtown Lisbon will start at the north end of the campgrounds and will end at the ravine near the turkey barn, serving as a much easier entrance for campers as well as those entering the fair from Saltwell Road.

“The walkway will start at the north end of the parking lots,” Houlette said. “Everyone that comes from Saltwell Road will be able to use the bridge. It will be a lot easier on people, especially as they leave.”

The bridge once sat on South Market Street and spanned the Middle Fork of Little Beaver Creek for over a century before it was replaced by a concrete span in the 1960s. Then, county Engineer Bert Dawson came up with plans to use the bridge for over 20 years. In the end, he decided on a walkway at the fairgrounds.

“Bert was able to put a lot of bids up, and has been able to raise all this money for this to happen,” Houlette said. “That bridge was taken down about 40 years ago, and Bert felt that the best place for that was at the fairgrounds.”

The bridge was originally planned to be built for the 2013 fair, but additional testing requests from the Environmental Protection Agency pushed back the bridge’s construction to this year. Now it appears the bridge will join the grandstand in a new, important year for the fair.

“The bridge has been dismantled, and it is being refurbished now in Cambridge,” Lease said. “If everything works out, it’s going to be awesome.”