Taking a look inside new Craighead Co. Fairgrounds

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The 2012 Northeast Arkansas District Fair opens 2 months from today at it's new location on Highway 49 near Farville.

Construction is still going on at the site, will it be ready? And what do those massive buildings look like on the inside?

Gene Vance, owner of Vance Construction in Jonesboro is quite pleased with the pace and status of the project. We stood inside the new exhibition building with workers and equipment moving too and fro installing siding, roofing, insulation and drywall.

Vance, "We're working on a very short rope, a very tight schedule and all the contractors have put their heads down and really gone to work."

The main entrance to the fairgrounds is off Highway 49. The first building you will enter is the Exhibition Hall where the ticket booths will be located. "This will be a big change from the old fair grounds." Vance said. He went on, "The ticket booths are actually part of the exposition building. To get to the midway, to get to the livestock. If you're here to be part of the fair you come through this area."

There is another access at the rear of the fairgrounds but that will not be for public access. Rides, display animals, vendors, fair workers will be the only ones allowed in.

The new exhibition hall would dwarf the old building with over 120 thousand square feet under roof. There will be 80 Thousand square feet of display room including display areas for jams, jellies, art and so on. Also plenty of restrooms and probably the most important thing of all...air conditioning. Massive black pipes cross the ceiling with holes cut in them waiting to cool down the fair-goers.

The open floor can be broken down into eight 10-thousand square foot rooms if needed or made into a larger space, depending on the event. Large foldable dividers will make sound-proof walls.

"It's got all kinds of advantages as far as being able to be used for many different functions." Vance said, "This building is designed to where it can have more than one function going on at a time."

There's only one other exhibition hall in the area this big.

Vance, "The only one that is of the same size capabilities for people is the Convocation Center."

In the center of the complex is a large chatted pad. This is the new midway. On the south side of the midway are the new cattle and swine barns, complete with animal wash areas and judging rings. Each building also has a vented roof and huge ceiling fans. Future plans include a poultry building and perhaps a rodeo arena.

Of great importance to fairgoers is a cement block building on the midway.

Vance grinned, "We've got toilets, ample toilets on the midway and they are air conditioned as well." They will also provide showers for carnival workers.

The exhibition center has 2 full industrial kitchens and some showers. "Could this be used as a temporary disaster shelter as well?" We asked Vance? "If we could get portable power it would be an excellent shelter following a tornado or ice storm." Vance said.

The construction has provided 300 plus jobs to local workers and, with one exception, all local contractors.

Vance said, "The majority of materials are bought through local distributors or dealers. Nearly all of it was produced in America."

Vance said his crews need to be finished up in about 6 weeks. "We are on schedule" he said. "We're not going to be 100 percent complete with the overall project but our goal is to have a fair in September as scheduled."

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