Memory garden in the works to build fairgrounds grandstand

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Mason Area Historical Society / Mason Area Historical Society

The previous Ingham County Fairgrounds grandstand was torn down. Ingham has one of Michigan’s last remaining county fairs.

Ever since the county said goodbye to the old fairgrounds grandstand in 2016, the Ingham County Fair Foundation has been working to build a new one. These efforts have included the creation of a memory brick garden to raise money.

The Ingham County Fair, held in Mason, is one of only eight county fairs in Michigan. The old grandstand was deemed unsafe, which led to its removal.

The new grandstand project and memory brick garden fundraiser started in 2018. Carol Carlson, executive director of the foundation, explained that the initial goal was to raise $50,000, because the county said that if the foundation could raise that much, it  would see what it could do. However, when the foundation reached its goal, the county did not do much for it. So the next step was to get to $100,000, and the foundation is hoping the county will match that.

Grandstands are expensive, but could bring a lot of profit to the fairgrounds. It is expected to cost around $3 million, but the foundation may have to find a less expensive alternative. 

The foundation is looking at reducing costs by putting up heavy-duty bleachers instead of a grandstand.

The foundation has run multiple fundraisers for the grandstand. These have included Taco Tuesdays, designer purse bingo and the memory garden. The memory garden is not intended to be a memorial, but a place where community members can share fair memories. Proceeds are intended to go toward the grandstand.

“Whether the grandstand goes or not, we are going to do something with what we’ve sold so far,” said Carlson. “We’re putting out a contest right now to each resident of Ingham County to design this garden, and the prizes are pretty good. We are going to pay $1,000 to first place, $500 to second place, and $400 to third place.”

Brick prices range from a 4×8 brick for $120 to an 18×24 brick for $1,000. Julie Taylor, head of the memory brick fundraiser, explained that local businesses are purchasing the more expensive ones, and the foundation is trying to get many more businesses involved.

Carlson said, “This has been an ongoing thing, and of course the difficulties of last year have had a lot to do with all of the pauses we’ve had to take.”

Taylor said, “The most challenging part, I guess I would say, is dealing with county limitations, since there are many county regulations that have to be met before we can start a new project.”

Lindsey McKeever, fairgrounds events director, said she is excited for the day that everything is complete.

“The most exciting part is looking forward to having a grandstand and being able to provide lifelong memories to folks who always come to the grandstand attractions,” said McKeever.

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