Editor's Note: This continues our Celebrate Community series on nonprofit organizations that improve Santa Rosa County residents' quality of life.
MILTON — The Santa Rosa County Fair Association, a nonprofit organization, puts on the annual county fair to promote agriculture and agriculture education, according to Agri-Plex volunteer manager Kyle Holley.
Fair attendees this weekend may come for the Ferris wheel and the funnel cake, but these are part of the promotion, according to Holley.
"The idea is that the rides and the food are a reward for coming to learn something about agriculture," he said. "So then the sale of the food and rides fund … award money to kids for showing animals or exhibiting artwork or crafts.”
Last year, the youth award money totaled roughly $7,500, but the association plans to increase its giving to youth agriculture programs across the county, according to Holley.
"The Santa Rosa County Fair has been focused on building a true agriculture complex in order to better meet this mission," Holley said.
The Agri-Plex is the name of the agriculture complex the association is building on the fairgrounds with $643,000 in grant money it received in 2016 from the state of Florida.
"The Agri-Plex has two components," Holley said. "One is the unique covered arena (the June Ates Arena) geared toward equestrian activities. The second component is the fairgrounds, dedicated to livestock shows and large-scale outdoor events, which could include concerts and festivals of all kinds.”
The June Ates Arena was phase one of the association's Agri-Plex. Three of phase two's open barns will be available for use during this year's fair, according to Association Chairman David Phillips.
The 60-foot-by-60-foot barn is the showroom while the two 60-foot-by-36-foot barns are for livestock, according to Phillips.
Two more of the smaller barns will be completed as well as an exhibit hall. The hall will allow art displays at the fair; that previously was difficult due to the threat of weather, according to Phillips.