Community Donations To Back New Building at Webster County Fairgrounds

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For one week a year, the exhibit hall at Webster County Fairgrounds is packed with 4-H and FFA members, as well as attendees of the county fair. For most of the rest of the year, it stands empty and unused.

"The exhibit hall that we have is basically just a big, steel farm building. It's drafty, it's cold in the winter, hot in the summer," said Webster County UNL Extension Educator Dewey Lienemann.

But one community organization hopes that will soon change. The Webster County Youth Foundation has put up $100,000 to renovate the building. They say they hope renovations will make the exhibit hall more comfortable for 4-H and FFA members during the county fair, as well as make it an event hall accessible to community during the rest of the year.

"There could be like weddings there, receptions, family gatherings," said 4-H and FFA member Dakota Lovett, who is also part of the Junior Leaders group.

But renovations are estimated to be around $250,000, so the foundation is asking the community to match their donation, be it cash, commodities, or livestock.

"It's all for the youth. If we don't keep these kids interested in agriculture, eventually someday we won't have anybody involved in agriculture. This is one way that as a producer we can help kids all the way across the county," said producer Robert Wilson, who donated a heifer for auction.

The fundraising kicked off Saturday, when producers like Wilson donated a total of 11 heads of cattle for auction, garnering more than $85,000 toward the foundation's efforts.

"We're hoping this will just be a seed to let people see what we're doing, and that will have more come through over the course of the year," said Lienemann, who helped plan the fundraiser.

Plans have already been drawn up, and organizers said the fair board is hoping to start renovations in late February so the building will be ready in time for the county fair in late July.