Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Plans Underway for 2012 West Alabama State Fair

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Plans Underway for 2012 West Alabama State Fair

Article excerpt

TUSCALOOSA | Since it took over as the primary sponsor of the West Alabama State Fair in 2009, United Cerebral Palsy of West Alabama has turned the annual event into its major fundraiser each year.

Now that it has permits and approval from the Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority to plan this year's fair, UCPWA is proceeding without hesitation, said Brenda Ewart, development director for the group.

UCPWA took over management of the West Alabama State Fair after the event, which had been operated by the Tuscaloosa Jaycees, collapsed into financial ruin after the 2006 event.

There was no fall fair in 2007, and the Jaycees's Tuscaloosa Jaycees County Fair in 2008 lacked many of the features that had made the West Alabama State Fair popular.

The return of the state fair in 2009 was greeted by about 8,000 people on the first Saturday night it was open, Ewart said, to the point that residents near Munny Sokol Park, the fair's new home, complained of gridlock and heavy traffic.

"We were just blown away at the community turnout," Ewart said. "I knew people had been missing it, but we did not expect that kind of turnout the first year."

Those kinks have now been worked out, Ewart said, thanks largely to the efforts of the Tuscaloosa Police Department.

Much of the fair's increased success each year is UCPWA's focus on security. The fair has never offered $1 entry nights and doesn't stay open past midnight.

Each year has seen more vendors and attractions, Ewart said. The fair is the largest fundraiser for UCPWA, and last year's event brought in the highest amount of funding so far for United Cerebral Palsy's programs in its 16 counties. Ewart said that after all fees and associated costs were paid, last year's fair raised about $80,000 for the non-profit agency.

Among the programs that benefited was the Possibilities Are Created Everyday program, an after-school program that serves children with special needs that had to be cut for one year for lack of funding.

Ewart said it was a popular program.

"This past fair is enabling us to get it back on the ground," she said. "Parents were really devastated when we had to close it. …

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