Williams County Fair Board Raises The Bar On Fundraisers With A ‘Raise The Barn’ Reverse Raffle

Fundraising. Despite what anyone may have told you, it is not a particularly easy task, especially in this economy. The object is simple…you try to convince people to open their checkbooks and support your cause, whatever that cause may be. There are even websites dedicated to getting people to give up their hard-earned money for whatever cause is being presented. When it comes to successful fundraising though, there is one method that works well…the use of stealth via entertainment. If a group or organization puts on a fundraising event that is so entertaining and so much fun, that the attendees tend to forget that they are taking part in a fundraiser, it is likely that the event is going to be a total success.

Those in attendance at the February 5 reverse raffle event sponsored by the Williams County Agricultural Society, more commonly known as the Williams County Fair Board, at the Gillette Building at the Williams County Fairgrounds would be the first to attest to this. If anyone did not have a great time at the event, then they did a magnificent job of hiding their disappointment. This was the second fundraising installment of the ‘Raise the Barn’ project, dedicated to raising the matching funds stipulated by the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s $50,000 grant toward the construction of a new goat barn to replace the current structure that is not only too small, but also well advanced in age. The first reverse raffle fundraiser, which took place last November, was a big success. This night though, was even bigger.

As the attendees filed in, they were able to peruse the items available for the live auction, as well as the ticket drop raffle items, which ranged from jars of raw honey, tools, repurposed craft items, unique lamps, gift cards, and so much more. Perhaps the biggest draw next to the actual reverse drawing itself, could be found at the tables where Mitch Stanley of Stanley’s Guns and Ammo was set up. Mr. Stanley brought several high-end firearms to the event for special two-level raffles. Holders of winning ten dollar silver tickets had a choice of several handguns and rifles from Smith and Wesson, Taurus and more, while fifteen dollar gold ticket winners had the same options, but with an expanded field that included a Henry repeating rifle. Originally a part of the gold ticket options, a Taurus ‘Judge’ revolver was requested to be sold as part of the live auction, where it drew nearly $500.

The event officially began with a huge catered buffet, with everything from salads to veggies to go along with the main courses of baked steaks and ham, with a huge assortment of pies for dessert. The choices of beverages were just as diverse, with everything from soft drinks to ‘adult’ beverages available for the asking.

At the completion of the meal, emcee and Project Coordinator Brian Wieland welcomed all to the event, and elaborated upon the purpose of the evening. In order to meet the goal of having the new 40 x 96 goat barn up and ready for occupancy by fair time on early September, some serious fundraising needs to be done. The attendees of the event proved that they were certainly up to the challenge.

Mr. Wieland introduced Fair Board Vice-President Al Bennett, who came forward to further elaborate upon the stipulations of the ODA grant and stress the need to generate funds to match the grant, and to do so in a framework of time that would allow for the building to be completed by the start of the 2017 fair. He also recognized the current members of the Fair Board that have put a lot of work into establishing the fundraising events needed to get the actual construction underway. “Raise the Barn is our Capital Improvement Campaign to build a new Goat Barn,” he said. “The ODA offered up a matching funds grant. Our grant was for $50,000, so what we needed to do was raise $50,000 on our end. As a result of tonight’s reverse drawing, we will have proceeds to add to that number. We had a drawing in November that gave us around $4,800 to put towards that. Ultimately, all the funds that we’re raising is going to that matching funds grant. we passed out pledge forms tonight, so that we can raise the other portion to get to that $50,000. The Board is committed to seeing this project to its fruition. We’re working with the Executive Committee, and Project Coordinator Brian Wieland is working with the engineering side of it. Everybody’s onboard.

Mr. Wieland returned to the podium to talk about the timeline of the grant process, and to tie it into the events of the evening. The new facility will have over 80 pens, and will be located on the north side of the livestock pavilion, making for a major increase in convenience for those with goat projects. Mr. Wieland then introduced Pam Goll of the Livestock Committee. The Livestock Committee has historically been active in building projects such as the concrete in the Dairy Barn. On this evening, Ms. Goll announced that the Livestock Committee was presenting the Board with an $8,000 donation towards the grant matching goal.

Also introduced was Edon’s own Crista Wortkoetter, the 2017 Ohio Fair Managers Association Ohio Fairs Queen. As her title tasks her with attending all 88 county fairs, Mr. Wieland challenged the attendees with making additional donations for her travel expenses, a challenge that was quickly taken up by several local businesses and organizations.

By this time, the buffet line was in the process of being broken down in preparation for the beginning of the main events for the evening. To keep up with the spirit of the event, the buffet was replaced by veggies and dip, cheeses, pretzels and chips, and even more slices of pies. No area of convenience or comfort for the guests was left to chance.

The reverse raffle then got underway, and the multi-faceted drama of suspense settled in for a wild ride over the next two-plus hours. At a minimum, every tenth ticket drawn won a special prize. Tickets for the 50-50 drawing, and a raffle for reverse drawing ticket #1 were running simultaneously in the background of the reverse drawings, and gold and silver tickets for the Stanley gun raffles continued until they were sold out. The reverse drawing was periodically paused for the live auction of donated items, and for ‘10 Times’ drawings. These special drawings saw guests placing money in envelopes, which were then sealed with their names inscribed upon the envelope prior to turning them in for placement into a special hopper. Once drawn, the name on the envelope was read aloud, and the envelope opened. The winner won ten times the amount that he or she placed in the envelope. Later in the event, the pauses in the reverse drawing was joined by the drawings of gold and silver tickets in the Stanley gun raffles.

When the reverse drawing had cut the field to ten remaining tickets of the original 250, the reverse drawing was paused for the drawings of the donated ticket drop items, an event that was emceed flawlessly by Queen Crista. Upon the completion of the ticket drop drawings, Mr. Wieland added yet another twist to the event by opening up the floor to the final ticket holders, offering them the opportunity to put their reverse drawing tickets up for sale. The offer was met with silence from the finalists, all of which opted to ride their fortunes out to the very end. The final ticket drawn was that of Amber Spencer of Albion, Indiana. With that, her $50 raffle ticket allowed her to come away with the grand prize of $2,000. “I still haven’t processed it yet,” she said after receiving her winnings. “I’ll be honest with you…I never win anything. That’s literally my luck. Out of 250 people, I’m the last person drawn.”

Despite battling physical and emotional exhaustion, Fair Board President Dave Page was nothing but smiles as he and the Board members commenced the extensive post-event tear down and clean up of the Gillette Building. “I thought that we had a tremendous turnout,” he said. “Our Queen was here tonight, and she made it all the way to State. That’s one of the best things that’s ever happened for us! This was a huge boost for us, and it puts our fair on the map.” Speaking of the Goat Barn project, Mr. Page added, “This is a big deal for us. It’s one of the oldest facilities here, and needs to be replaced. It’s going to be placed where it was originally intended to be put years ago when they built the show arena. The support here tonight was phenomenal. This was great. This was exactly what we needed.”

Timothy Kays can be reached at tim@thevillagereporter.com

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