The Union County Fair Association received a meaningful boost on Wednesday.

The Union County Board of Commissioners voted to provide the fair association with $7,400 to cover its liability insurance premium for 2019-20.

The commissioners made the decision following a request by UCFA President Amy Horn, an Observer employee, at the April 3 meeting. Horn said the UCFA pays $7,400 annually for its portion of liability insurance under the county’s policy and explained financial assistance would help the fair association complete badly needed maintenance work it has not been able to do because of its tight budgets.

“Projects that have been ignored for years are definitely catching up with us,” Horn told the commissioners Wednesday.

Horn said it is important to keep the fairgrounds in good condition not only because of the annual county fair, but also because its facilities are used year-round. She noted the fairgrounds houses many activities including search and rescue training sessions, the Eastern Oregon Beer Festival, a Grande Ronde Hospital picnic, and events for 4-H members and their families.

“The fairgrounds benefit all of Union County, not just the fair,” Horn said.

The commissioners had postponed their decision in part because they wanted to find out if proposed legislation that would significantly increase funding to county fairs in Oregon would be approved by the Legislature during the current session.

Commissioner Matt Scarfo said it does not appear this will happen.

“Those bills (that would help county fairs) are struggling,” Scarfo said at Wednesday’s meeting.

Horn said the Union County Fair Association’s financial state has been hurt in previous years by declining fair attendance, and the loss of revenue has made it difficult to finance maintenance work. Fortunately, attendance has increased the last two years, jumping by more than 800 fair-goers.

“I think that a trend is starting,” Horn said.

The UCFA president also said the fair’s financial outlook is being brightened by new sponsors it has picked up this year.

Horn said the county commissioners’ decision to cover the UCFA’s liability insurance premium means the UCFA will be able to devote more money to replacing the electrical system in the fairground’s exhibit hall and other projects.

See complete story in Friday's Observer