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New board pumps life into ailing fair

Dates that coincide with spring break are just the beginning. A better midway is planned, too.

By JOY DAVIS-PLATT, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 2, 2002

BROOKSVILLE -- After steadily declining attendance in recent years at the Hernando County Fair, members of the newly elected fair board hope changes in personnel and direction will bring back the crowds.

At their annual meeting last month, members of the fair association elected a new board of directors, naming Deb Pedone as president. Pedone had stepped in as interim president in March after former president Chuck Smith stepped down after the fair closed.

"His heart has been in the right place for a long time, but it was time to do things differently, and I think he felt that way, too." said Pedone, who is an advertising sales representative for the Hernando Times.

Brooksville City Council member Joe Bernardini was elected vice president of the board. Tammy Fincher was named secretary, and Verne Ross retained his position as treasurer.

New members of the board include Brooksville Police Chief Ed Tincher, Tommy Clark, Debbie DesChamps and Anthony Kovic.

"I've never seen a more diverse and unified board of directors on the fair board," said Pedone. "They're all anxious and willing to work. They're excited about the changes we're making."

One of the board's first decisions was to move the 2003 fair from March to April 17-27, dates that will coincide with spring break for the Hernando public schools. In recent years, Pedone said, the fair's change of dates has detracted from attendance, which this year dropped below 10,000. From now on, she said, the fair will open on the third Thursday of each April.

"We wanted to get a fair date that we could keep year after year after year."

The other noticeable change, Pedone said, will be bigger, better and more midway attractions. By signing a contract with Deggeller Attractions, based in Stuart, she said, the fair will be able to bring rides like the Zipper, the Inverter and the Wave Swinger to Hernando County.

"We are stepping up to a whole different level of carnival," Pedone said. "That will probably be our biggest draw for the fair."

The board has also decided to revive features such as the demolition derby, professional rodeo and chicken plucking.

Pedone said her strength lies in focusing people in areas where their strengths lie. By creating smaller committees within the organization to handle specific areas of fair preparation, she said, the work should go much easier.

"The county fair should run like a business," she said. "All I do is organize and follow up. That is my strength."

John Vivone will serve as chairman of the committee charged with keeping the fairground stables and presentation arena in good order. Recently, the group has begun work to refurbish the facility's horse rings and stables.

"I can tell you that what I have done is not monumental or stupendous," Vivone said. "The difference is that for years and years, nobody has done anything."

By keeping the facilities up to par, Vivone said, the fairgrounds will be able to attract horse shows throughout the year that will pay to keep the grounds maintained. He attributes the ability to work on such housekeeping issues to better board management.

"There's direction now (to the fair board) where there has not been direction in the past," he said. "The arguing and fighting among the board has ceased."

Board member Nancy Moores said the changes will help pump new life into the ailing fair and bring more interest from Hernando County's youth.

"For years, the 4-H did landscaping at the fairgrounds, something they fell away from as the fair board had its problems with the community," said Moores, who is also the 4-H agent for the Hernando County Cooperative Extension Service. "I think it's important for students to accept some ownership of the fair and claim some responsibility for it."

Traditionally, the 4-H has been responsible for the Family Building, the Youth Building and has had a hand in the Livestock Building.

"Every student in Hernando County can exhibit something at the fair," Moores said. "They all have talents they can showcase and own a piece of the fair so to speak."

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