MAHASKA COUNTY — In February of 2018 the Southern Iowa Fair and Exposition Foundation Board started fundraising to build a new beef barn. In the newly completed barn at the 2019 fair, 108 animals were stalled.

Southern Iowa Fair & Exposition Board president Shawn Van Engelenhoven said the barn can hold 124 head.

“So we were nearly full this first year,” he said. “It wasn’t overly crowded this first year and there was plenty of room for tack.”

The project happened over a 10-year period, Van Engelenhoven said.

“It all began with a visit to my house from Clint Long. He showed up with a grant from Monsanto and said he thought we should build a beef barn," he said. “After receiving another grant from Mahaska County Recreation Foundation Grant for $10,000 a campaign was started to fund the barn."

According to Southern Iowa Fair and Exposition Secretary Erica Antolik that campaign is on-going to help with the remaining funds needed.

“Sponsors can buy a brick for $500, a block for $1000 or a stone for $2500," she said. “Currently there are 72 sponsors that have purchased the bricks, blocks and stones with more coming in all the time. Several of them are memorials and eventually all the sponsor’s names will go onto the sponsor wall.”

“We are also applying for additional grants,” said Van Engelenhoven.

Van Engelenhoven and Antolik agreed that this project could not have happened without those sponsors and the wonderful group of local businesses and volunteers that helped get it completed in time for the fair.

Curt Smith and Troy DeMooney came to tear down the old barn and Irv De Bruin worked on the new drainage system. Midwest Sanitation hauled off the debris to the Mahaska County Landfill.

G & S Construction and Victory Construction poured the footings. Veenstra Crane and Construction were there doing whatever was needed and members of the Beef Barn Committee helped set forms, tear off boards and pump water out of the hole.

“The Pro-Line Building crew was great,” said Van Engelenhoven. “The minute we told them we were ready for them they were here.”

“Ten years ago when we first started thinking about this the plan the goal was for around $300,000,” Van Engelenhoven said. “We downsized that plan to $130,000.”

Antolik said close to $100,000 has been raised.

“There is just over $30,000.00 to raise now,” she said.

The wash racks and concrete approach to the building were not completed prior to the fair this year but it wasn’t because of the money. The weather did not cooperate with the construction crews. Plans are to have the west side to include a wash rack and concrete from the barn to the sale ring.

“I think it was actually good that we didn’t get it finished,” said Van Engelenhoven. “It will give everything a chance to settle until spring.”

“When the barn was torn down I think it was nearly a century old and I think it was built during one of the World War eras,” said Van Engelenhoven. “Many of these buildings, we believe, were used for barracks back then.”

Once the beef barn is completely funded, the Southern Iowa Fair and Exposition Board is planning to move on to the next project. They are considering either replacing the hog barn or a new office and community center.

“A community center would combine the D.A.V. and office buildings with bathrooms in the middle,” said Antolik. “It would be available for events such as weddings. Some weekends we have two weddings on the grounds.”

If you would like to contribute to the beef barn fund by purchasing a brick, a block or a stone stop by the Southern Iowa Fair and Exposition office to fill out a form.

“Donations in any amount are greatly appreciated,” Antolik said.