CIRCLEVILLE— A study secured by the Pickaway County Commissioners has found that conditions are favorable for a successful fundraising campaign for the fairgrounds.

Mike Schmidt, executive vice president and partner with Cramer & Associates consultants out of Dublin, shared the results of the study he created at the behest of the commissioners.

Schmidt’s firm interviewed Pickaway County residents on the topic of the current state of the fairgrounds and the commissioners’ plans for renovations. He gave his findings during the Aug. 8 meeting.

“From our perspective, we’re recommending the campaign move forward,” Schmidt said. “This is a high probability, and there are strong indicators that the campaign will be successful.”

“[Residents] are willing to get involved and help,” Schmidt said during his presentation. “[There] are strong indicators that say to us the campaign will be successful.”

Schmidt said the rains and subsequent video that was released about the conditions during the fair have pushed along public perception.

“It was almost divine intervention of the rainstorm because it got people so fired up on the need for new facilities, as terrible as it was,” Schmidt said.

As part of the process, Schmidt and his team interviewed people from different backgrounds to gage interest in the fundraiser and project. Twenty-two people were formally interviewed for the study.

“We asked a small committee made of the commissioners, a representative of the 4-H club and other people interested in the fair to help us identify who would be ideal to talk to,” Schmidt said. “We wanted a cross-section of folks that would be interested in what happens to the fairgrounds. We talked to farming folks in farming business, we talked to Circleville business people and got a geographical cross-section from the county. We interviewed people from north and south and east and west. Diversity of our sampling was important.”

In addition to the formal interviews, Schmidt said they conducted additional information interviews.

“There was a booth set up at the fair itself, and I was able to engage families passing buy,” he said. “There were 4-H families, people attending the fair and generally interested people in the outcome. It’s a wide sampling of folks—those weren’t part of my statistical survey but it was additional background information.”

The commissioners were pleased with the results.

“This is a lot of passion and passion will get things done,” said Commissioner Jay Wippel. “Not only the people that you’ve talked to, but also the people we’ve talked to.”

Commissioner Harold Henson said a support base is all the project needs.

“It’s very encouraging, and I think it’s going to snowball from here,” he said. “We just have to keep whatever it is going and periodically reassuring people until they actually see tearing down the buildings.”

Schmidt said that ultimately what makes him confident in the success of the project is the passion people showed toward improvement.

“The strong depth of passion is a great indicator; people really care,” he said. “If I see apathy, I get very concerned. What I found was, people were excited at what it could be and were frustrated it wasn’t happening sooner.”

Schmidt shared that 86 percent of those people he interviewed had a negative perception of the fairgrounds.

Schmidt highlighted some of the comments about the perception of the fairgrounds and heard things like, “It’s known as the ‘first and the worst,” and, “Embarrassing at how run down it is,” among the negative comments. One person did comment that the fairgrounds just needed “cleaning and a new coat of paint.”

On the flip side of the negative perception of the fairgrounds itself, 86 percent of people surveyed had a positive perception of the case for support, Schmidt said.

Some of the comments in the study were to “make [the fair] bigger than the Pumpkin Show” and “What the heck has taken it so long to get moving? It went from nobody cares to a crisis overnight.”

Overall, 41 percent of people surveyed said they’d be willing to serve as a volunteer, something Schmidt said is very high compared to similar projects they’ve done studies on.

“It’s helping to raise awareness, champion it in the community and helping to raise money,” Schmidt said of what this question was trying to gage. “We’re very pleased with this number of 41 percent saying ‘yes’, 27 percent saying ‘maybe’ and 32 percent saying ‘no’. Typically, especially in social service agencies, it’s a 10 to 12 percent number, and we’re thrilled with that. We’re asking if they’ll go and ask others for funding, and most people don’t like to. In other agricultural projects in rural communities we’ve done, that number is even less. That’s why I’m so very pleased with the ‘yes’ and ‘maybes’.”

Schmidt also noted that those surveyed thought the importance of the fairgrounds was the highest or high compared to other charitable priorities.

“No one said it was ‘not at all’ and we were really happy with ‘the highest’ and ‘high’,” he said. “In most of our studies high and medium are where the peak numbers are but the number of high and highest are good indicators as well. To see this with the first slight about their opinion on the fair grounds is a very, very strong indicator for us.”

Lastly, Schmidt said 82 percent of people would be willing to support the campaign for the project.

“That is what we want to see,” he said. “Usually, if people don’t want to say ‘no’, they’ll give a ‘maybe’ so the fact it was a ‘yes’ is strong. Typically we see 75 percent or fewer.”

Schmidt also gave recommendations to the board for fundraising moving forward, suggesting the fair is a time when the campaign should hit its stride.

“One thing we observed is passion runs high during the fair time,” Schmidt said. “Between the May, June and July months will be a high time for a lot of folks, and we should utilize that. Between now and October it’s also going to be strong, as an observation we made. This fall is going to be big.”

The commissioners’ renovation plans can be found at pickaway.org.

email scollins@circlevilleherald.com follow on twitter @Collins_Herald

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