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MILLERSBURG -- The culmination of years of planning and fundraising came to fruition on Tuesday, Feb. 21, as representatives from Harvest Ridge, The Hardwood Furniture Guild, the Holmes County Agricultural Society, the contractor and government officials together took the first step of the next phase towards completion of the multi-purpose exposition center on the Holmes County Fairgrounds at Harvest Ridge.
They broke ground for the construction of the 48,000 square foot building that the Agriculture Society hopes to have ready for use, if at least partially, by fair time this August.
"Thank you for being here this afternoon," said Kim Kellogg, vice president of the Harvest Ridge Board. "Who would've imagined on Feb. 21, that we would have 65 degrees, no mud and no snow; and we can actually get a shovel in the ground. We are more than a little thankful. I think that bodes well for how things will go with this building project."
Kellogg said it was appropriate that nearly six years ago to the day, the feasibility study was presented to us by Front Street Analytics out of Columbus.
"Part of that feasibility study included the building we're breaking ground for today," he said. "I think it's pretty phenomenal how far we've come, and how many meetings we've had to get us to this point. Thank you for being here to help celebrate this very, very special day."
Chad Stutzman from New Pointe Church offered the invocation over the project.
Harvest Ridge President and Holmes Fair Board Secretary Tara Sheldon recognized many of the dignitaries who were on hand for the event.
Sheldon extended thanks to: Larry Obhoff, president of the Ohio Senate; Holmes County Commissioner Ray Eyler; from the Hardwood Furniture Guild, treasurer Tom Jeffries and Sheldon Stutzman; Mark Weaver from Ivan Weaver Construction, and members of the Harvest Ridge Board (Kerry Taylor, Shasta Mast, Kim Kellogg and Garrett Roach) and Fair Board members (Taylor, Kathy Schlabach, Chris Hanna, Kyle Hanna, Tim Hershberger, Roger Boring, Jim Croskey, Mike Spreng, Myron Troyer) and county Extension agent Hallie Rutt.
"Former Rep. Dave Hall, who was very instrumental in many parts of the fairgrounds, and this building is no exception," Shedron said. "Thank you for everything you've done.
"I just want to thank every single volunteer, board members and others for every minute you've spent here, whether it's dollars or time. Every piece goes into this whole puzzle," she continued. "I think we're finally jumping that last major hurdle. We still have lots of things to accomplish here. But I think this is the last piece to get this place up and running, to give us what we need for the fairgrounds and so many more events throughout the year. Thanks again to everyone here."
Shasta Mast, a member of the Hardwood Furniture Guild and executive director of the Holmes County Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau, also thanked everyone for being there.
"Thanks for helping us celebrate the next big step in the development of Harvest Ridge," Mast said. "The three main industries of Holmes County are manufacturing, tourism and agriculture. I've said it over and over again. There are few projects that will impact all three industries as much as the building we're here to begin today."
Mast explained that the No. 1 reason people take overnight trips in Ohio specifically is for special events.
"When we're meeting tour operators from across the country, trying to get them to come to Holmes County, their No. 1 question is what's new," she said. "You can't re-invent your destination every year, but you can have and promote new events every year. And with a venue that can host the kind of events we're talking about, from the Hardwood Furniture Guild's annual show that brings in 1,000 buyers from across the country to quilt shows, to food shows, animal husbandry events; really the impact on the economy is limitless.
"We're here planning for not just the next five or 10 years, but future generations of Holmes Countians who will benefit from this project, it's because of the foresight and the cooperation of everyone coming together to do this."
Mast noted that The Hardwood Furniture Guild, most of whom are Amish, raised over a million dollars to go into this project, on top of the millions of dollars the fair board has raised for the rest of the project.
"We're here to celebrate and get the next phase going," Mast said.
Obhoff presented Kerry Taylor with an accommodation passed by the Ohio Senate, honoring the Holmes County Agricultural Society on the ground breaking.
"This has been a long time coming," Obhoff said. "It was great last year to use what was here so far. We even had a storm to test how well the drainage would work and everything else. It was one of the worst storms I can remember, and things were dry within a couple hours, which proves this new location is a big improvement. It was a great fair, but I look forward to it being even greater after we get the new exposition center up.
"I want to thank Dave Hall, who was a great partner as a state representative who fought for the local community in ways I don't see very often in Columbus," Obhoff continued. "He really stuck up for this area and fought very hard. I was a 4-H kid, and it's great to see how many lives are impacted by this."
Taylor said he was proud to use the same shovel he used for the original groundbreaking of the new fairgrounds April 17, 2012, and Nov. 16, 2015, for the Tom and Eva and Sterling Humrichouser Livestock Barn.
"I'm proud to use this shovel for the third time today on this project. Leave it to a landscaper (Kellogg) to bring a flat shovel to a groundbreaking," Taylor quipped. "This is the culmination of the last major phase of the fairgrounds. I'm glad to see it get started."