Cow Palace takes a tumble

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By Bob Reichman

Even with assurances of a better and more modern facility, sadness marked the demolition of the 60-year-old Cow Palace at the Sumter County Fairgrounds.
Destruction of the aging facility north of Webster began late last week as a large crane chewed into the roof of the building and its walls.
“It is really sad,” said Barb Kane, fair coordinator. “When you look at it, it brings back lots of memories.”
For decades, the building served a variety of fair-related functions – everything from housing the annual fair scholarship pageants to providing the arena for showing off livestock during various fair competitions.
And with a week-long fair starting early in March, the demolition work has to be completed soon.
“Things are moving pretty quickly,” Kane said. “They’re doing this really fast.”
Kane said she has no concerns about the approaching fair season. “A tent is going up on March 6” that will span the space left open by the demolished building. The annual county fair begins two days later, on March 8.
The County Commission late last year decided that the Cow Palace is no longer functional and needed to be destroyed.
The board decided not to proceed with plans to spend $839,038 to refurbish the aging building and condemned the facility because of its unsafe condition.
Their decision was made following considerable discussion of the topic on a motion by County Commission Doug Gilpin who said the board shouldn’t spend almost $1 million to bring the 60-year-old structure up to code.
During their discussions of the facility, County Commissioner Doug Gilpin led the way to supporting a new facility.
“It makes no sense to make that kind of investment on a 60-year-old Quonset hut,” Gilpin said at the time. “I’m proposing we build a new building. We have tourist development funds to do it with.”
While county staff supported plans to renovate the existing building, Gilpin said he didn’t view that recommendation as a good one.
Gilpin said that by agreeing to spend that amount of money to refurbish the building, the board will have only remedied the existing problems with the building and not provided a facility that would be advantageous to the county.
Commissioners supported Gilpin’s statements condemning the facility and agreeing to build a new facility.