Racing ban could cost $29K during Kosciusko County Fair

(Gary Nieter / Times-Union)

Four weeks before the fair arrives, Kosciusko County Fair Board members worked Monday night to find replacement activities for two grandstand shows after court action temporarily halted motorized racing at the fairgrounds.

The injunction on May 16 came at the request of property owners along Winona Lake who are upset that racing has begun to rev up again in recent years, 28 years after the fairgrounds agreed to halt the motorized activities at the speedway.

On Monday, the board, that included 10 people seated along a long table, tried to drum up ideas with about a dozen fair leaders and others at the Shrine Building after learning of a bleak  revenue report as a result of the ban.

Board President Kevin Harris said they believe the fairgrounds will lose upward of $30,000 during the fair and at least that much more for the entire year as a result of lost revenues from events that are now canceled.

The fair begins July 8. Grandstand activities include a rodeo on July 9, Monster Truck on July 10, a demolition derby is planned for that Friday night and a truck and tractor pull is set for that Saturday.

The fair board has already canceled one race.

Two other races, including the Roy Bradbury Classic, that were part of the fair week, have been canceled, leaving two holes in the grandstand schedule.

A handful of other races scheduled for later this summer also have been canceled.

The timing of the injunction left the fair board with few options and little time. They checked with the promotor the fairgrounds has used to line up other events, but with no luck.

“Five weeks out, they don’t have anything for us,” Harris said.

On Monday, the board approved plans for a “pit party” on the Wednesday of the fair week on the race track. The event will focus on memorabilia and is a way to bring out race track supporters to the fair.

Instead of an admission, organizers will ask for donations that will go toward a legal fund for the court battle.

Other ideas for the following night – Thursday – are being considered, but nothing has been finalized.

“Anything’s better than an empty grandstand,” said board member Randy Shepherd.

The board has one more meeting prior to the fair. That will be 7 p.m. July 5.

The fair board has embraced the court fight, claiming a loss in court will be “catastrophic to our existence.”

Representatives of the fairgrounds filed an appeal against the injunction on Friday.

The fairgrounds website includes a GoFundMe link sought to help cover legal costs. The website says they’d like to generate $100,000. So far, they have $4,074 from 51 donations.

Supporters of the speedway – known on Facebook as “We Want Another Warsaw Speedway” – are selling T-shirts.

Elmer Schwartz told the board he is organizing a motorcycle ride for Aug. 5 that they hope could raise upward of $10,000 for the legal fund.

The ride would begin and end at the fairgrounds and could possibly include food and three live bands in the grandstand.

The board also agreed to reserve a rain date for the event one week later.

Despite the court case and loss of revenue, Harris remains hopeful it will be a good fair.

“We’re very optimistic about fair week,” Harris said “We have a lot of good things going on.”