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Nonprofit buys golf course

June 12, 2017
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Kent County Youth Fair crowd
The Kent County Youth Fair draws more than 40,000 people each year. Photo via fb.com

A nonprofit’s signature event will have a new home in 2020.

The Kent County Youth Agricultural Association, or KCYAA, the sponsor of the Kent County Youth Fair has agreed to purchase the 140-acre property that houses Deer Run Golf Club in Lowell, at 13955 Cascade Rd. SE.

KCYAA signed a purchase agreement with KAMAK LLC for both the property and existing structures when the course’s lease ends in 2019.

Terms of the sale, which is expected to close in September, were not disclosed.

The purchase was supported by a $2.5-million grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, The Wege Foundation, Chemical Bank Foundation and private individual donations.

“Our announcement today is the culmination of years of work done by volunteers, philanthropists, sponsors and government representatives who all believe in the mission of the fair,” KCYAA President Jon Bieneman said.

The new fairgrounds will replace the existing site, at 225 S. Hudson in Lowell, which has served as the fair venue since 1934.

Growing attendance and expanded animal exhibitions in the last decade, compounded with a shrinking amount of usable space and the site’s vulnerability to floods necessitated moving the fair to a new venue.

Kent County Youth Fair Manager Jessica Marks said the current site has 19 acres of useable land and has drawn about 50,000 visitors in each of the last three years, up from about 35,000 visitors in 2013.

When KCYAA takes possession of the property in 2019, the nonprofit will begin construction of new barns, a horse practice area and arena and campgrounds with utility hookups, which are missing from the previous site. Additionally, the fair’s Model R John Deere tractor, which was built in memory of former fair Manager Ron Wenger, will be moved to the new grounds.

KCYAA has launched the "Raising Barns. Building Youth" capital funding campaign, which has raised more than $300,000 for new facilities.

“The fair gives youth a much-needed exposure to agriculture and animals that they may never get otherwise,” Bieneman said. “In addition to hosting the Youth Fair, the fairgrounds also serve as the gathering place for the Lowell community and surrounding area for music festivals, horse shows, autumn market and Christmas marketplace.”

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