Three new buildings have been completed on the Durham Fairgrounds in time for the 95th annual Durham Fair, Sept. 25-28.
The three barn-style buildings replace two that were damaged in heavy snowfall, which forced the relocation of exhibits and llamas for several fairs in a row.
Heavy snow destroyed the roof of the “Crow’s Nest” building that held youth exhibits on the ground floor and flowers, fruits, vegetables and canning on the upper floor. In that same storm, the President’s Hall, which held art and baking exhibits, suffered structural damage.
The two buildings will be replaced with three structures. “We needed more space, basically,” said Ed ‘Butch’ Coe, building committee member.
According to Mike Conway, building team manager, the Durham Fair Association’s volunteers, including the building team, long range planning team, and executive board considered different options for the replacement structures. “There were a lot of meetings on it,” Conway said. “If we put the buildings in the right spots we can spread the people out and give areas more meaning.”
According to Conway, in Sept. of 2013, changes on the executive board of the DFA also changed the construction ideas. Plans for a single, more expensive, heated, and multi-use building and plans to replace the two buildings on their original footprints were scrapped in favor of three dispersed and less expensive buildings.
Conway said, “We started to go back to the directors with multiple plans ... I’m passionate about this organization. It’s all volunteer and a lot of strong personalities. But we had full communication to all these directors and we had agreement in January  on these three buildings.”
The DFA held a ground-breaking ceremony in May.
“The pieces started falling into place,” said Hans Pedersen, building committee member. Pedersen said that the buildings, located where visitors congregate, make better use of the grounds and will help give the fair a “non-congested” feel.
Not replacing the Crow’s Nest changes the view on the road in front of President’s Hall. Visitors walking downhill look out on the roofs of the animal barns and the hills of western Durham.
The new President’s Hall is on the site of the old one and will hold baking, canning, fruits, and vegetable exhibits. The President’s Hall, once the oldest structure on the fairgrounds, began as a dairy barn.
Although not replaced by several plans, Conway said, “President’s Hall wanted to be here, in a funny way.”
The building’s name has also resurfaced. “It wasn’t called President’s Hall in the plans, but you can’t fight tradition and everyone’s been calling it the President’s Hall,” Conway said.
The two other new buildings are located on the road leading down from the Main Street gates and are dedicated to youth and personal skills displays.
The new youth building takes the craft tent location from the 2013 Durham Fair. This puts the youth building near the DMYFS booth and the Durham Co-op’s chicken booth. The new building will also be near the petting zoo and the area for children’s games, creating a youth area of the fair.
The third new building, located closer to the gates where the elephants were in 2013, will hold crafts, collections, photography, and other personal skills. Without an official name, building committee members have been calling it the personal skills building.
The personal skills and youth buildings have similar designs with symmetrical windows and large central entrances. The personal skills building is slightly larger, at 60 by 100 feet, compared to the 60 by 80 youth building.
For three fairs, these groups were in the barn once occupied by the llamas, who will now retake their space.
“They’re much brighter,” said Butch Coe of the new buildings. “They have windows and they have vents along the top that give light, so it’s going to be much easier to see all the displays.”
Jim Rossi, who volunteers with the crafts and collections, said of the new President’s Hall, “This originally was a cow barn. We always had white wash falling on us during the fair.”
Other fairs, Rossi said, will try to sell you something with their exhibits while the Durham Fair tries to show you something. “That’s the big difference,” Rossi said. “One of our buildings will hold the exhibits from most other fairs in the state.”
Construction elements such as site work, concrete, and electricity were contracted locally while the structures themselves were built by Quarry View Construction from Pennsylvania.
The project, reportedly budgeted for $475,000, came in at approximately $515,000.
Conway, who has experience in corporate construction, said that the volunteer organization showed great teamwork between the building, planning, and executive groups.
“The fair is here to stay,” Conway said. “There’s a core group of people that are committed to the fair. It’s about our history, our roots. It’s a neat organization with all the volunteers and how it all comes together.”
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