Fair manager optimistic about Event Center partnership

American 1 president/CEO Dave Puckett and fair manager Steve Thelen

With the “shop local” movement in full swing, Jackson County Fair Manager Steve Thelen thinks a local “have fun” movement should accompany it, especially with high-quality venues and entertainment outlets “right down the street.”

“Folks can revisit what they have locally,” Thelen says. “This community has tons of opportunities.”

Thelen is optimistic about American 1’s sponsorship of the new American 1 Event Center at the Jackson County Fairgrounds. The partnership, he says, will ensure a community cornerstone will stay functional and operational. This after American 1 pledged $112,500 over ten years for the naming rights and to help keep the facility maintained.

“This is a way, through the partnership with American 1, to insure the Event Center’s financial stability,” Thelen says. “The light and fuel bills aren’t going down anytime soon. We have to make sure we can cover our base costs so we can provide local entertainment.”

Providing local entertainment is what the American 1 Event Center can do best. The Event Center will bring in trade shows, wedding receptions, and local activities so that everyone involved – the fairgrounds, American 1, and the Jackson community – can benefit.

American 1 president/CEO Dave Puckett signs the deal

“American 1 has a long history of supporting community activities,” Thelen says. “It becomes a win-win for both of us, and we feel it’s a very appropriate partnership.”

The American 1 Event Center will see its fair share of community activities. The Jackson County Fair alone brings in 187,000 people, Thelen says, and it makes Jackson a destination for visitors from nearby counties and states. The fair, plus events like the local home builders show and school activities, make the American 1 Event Center “a place to gather and feel good about the Jackson area.”

The fairgrounds is now in talks with other sponsors to help the facilities, a trend that is happening with other fairgrounds throughout Michigan. Meijer, Ganton Retirement Centers, and Alladin Electric have all been tapped as possible partners.

“We can’t depend on crowds or the weather,” Thelen says.

Thelen, Steve Shotwell (county commissioner), Phil Hoffman (board member) and Chester Radabaugh (board member)

Simple upkeep can benefit local businesses, too. Thelen says the fairgrounds works with Jackson companies for maintenance and upkeep on the grounds, including flowers, plants, and paint for the buildings.

“We want to keep things in good shape,” he says.

In the end, the fairgrounds can’t rely on shrinking funds from the state and local governments. Because, whether the funding is there or not, some events simply need to happen Thelen says.

“We need to have these positive events to help us feel good about Jackson,” he says. “With American 1’s help, we can be here and be a strong presence in Jackson.”

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