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County competing for fairground park grant

Stark County Fairgrounds is competing for a Grinnell Mutual grant to create a children's park. Voting ends on Sept. 26. (Brandon L. Summers / The Dickinson Press)

Stark County is in competition for a Grinnell Mutual Fairground Facelift grant to create a kid's playground for the county fairgrounds.

There are 15 finalists from 13 states competing for a grant. One project will receive $3,000 and four others will receive $1,000.

Lisa Heiser, fairgrounds coordinator, pursued the grant so children would have a place to play while at the county fairgrounds.

"I went (to the board) and said, do you guys maybe want to put up a park? Because there's no place for the children to play when they're at the fairgrounds, so they play with rocks and dirt, which is good, but we want something a little different," she said.

The funds would go toward an outdoor children's playground using all-natural materials such as logs for climbing, stumps for jumping, a sandbox for digging, ropes for swinging, and rocks for building.

The project could be easily done with the grant and matching county funds, Heiser said.

"A lot of those items are going to be things we find," she said. "Most of our expense for this is going to be the labor and equipment to build the mounds and all the things we need to make sure it's safe."

It would be a smaller park, potentially located near the main arena, likely in the fenced area, away from the livestock, Heiser said.

"We haven't considered all the options yet, because we're still working on our master plan," she said. "It could be not even a full acre, but it's probably just that whole back piece on the west side of the grandstands, in that back part."

The fairgrounds had a good summer season, despite bouts of inclement weather, Heiser said.

"The rodeo had some really tough weather," she said. "The first night, a bad hailstorm was supposed to come through. The second night it was really cold, a lot of rain. But, boy, we had a lot of contestants that competed there. And the third night they were out in full force."

She added, "We were at pretty high capacity, and they just had fun."

Heiser was overjoyed to learn Stark County was a grant finalist.

"It was exciting, especially because they receive thousands of entries for these grants because they are so widespread and known," she said.

County Commissioner Dean Franchuk, who serves on the Stark County Fair Association board, said the grant is a great opportunity for the county.

"It would be nice to have something there for the children to do out there, too, when the events are going on," he said.

Already, the project has received support online.

"People are starting to get out there and vote," Heiser said. "Now we're just asking our local people to get on and vote."

To vote, visit facebook.com/myGrinnellMutual. People can vote once per day, per project.

Voting ends Sept. 26 at 11:59 a.m. Central.