Will storm and vandalism damage be repaired in time for the 2021 Washington Parish Fair?
That’s a question that various readers have asked The Era-Leader.
The answer, according to Fair officials, is a resounding YES!
But even with the legendary optimism of Fair officials, for that YES to happen, support from residents of the parish is needed.
As readers will recall, Mile Branch Settlement at the Fairgrounds was hit hard by a storm on March 17. The worst damage occurred to the Sylvest Cabin, the largest cabin in the Settlement. A massive pine tree fell and basically cut the cabin in half.
Fair officers and Mile Branch volunteers were still reeling from what the storm did when shortly thereafter two juveniles vandalized the Settlement. They have since been arrested and charged with the vandalism. (The names of the juveniles are being withheld due to their age, and even their current status in the legal system remains confidential.)
The Fairgrounds situation was actually even worse than it could have been.
Because of COVID, there was no Fair last fall. No Fair means no revenue. So even before the storm damage and the vandalism occurred, Fair officials were already concerned about financing the 2021 Fair.
Now, with massive damage to repair, donations are being requested from parish residents. So far, the response has been good, but anyone who hasn’t donated and would like to is certainly encouraged. James Magruder, vice chairman of the Fair, said, “We are still accepting donations for repairs. This can be done at any branch of Citizens Savings Bank and donors should be sure to specify that it is for Mile Branch repairs.”
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As for the repairs themselves, Building and Grounds chairman Donald Folse said, “We are making progress with a lot of cleaning at this point. We are waiting for the logs so that we can finish reconstructing the Sylvest Cabin.” Folse noted that damage to the cabin was so significant that it is basically being reconstructed almost from scratch. A restroom on the Fairgrounds was also destroyed in the storm, and it is being replaced.
Folse said he is very confident that both the Settlement and the Fairgrounds itself will be at 100% when the Fair opens on October 20.
Kaye Ladner, longtime secretary of the Fair Association, pointed out that there is a real need for volunteers not just to help repair the damage but also to work at Mile Branch during the actual Fair. Many of the current Mile Branch volunteers are senior citizens and, Mrs. Ladner said, they are concerned about being in large crowds so soon after the pandemic. So additional volunteers are being sought to work at the Settlement during the Fair.
(Photo above shows the Sylvest Cabin at Mile Branch Settlement after the storm devastated it in March.)