The Bartholomew County 4-H Fair Board is tasked with several important responsibilities. One is to ensure that the annual fair has a good amount and variety of attractions and activities to ensure a fun time for fair goers. Another is to ensure the safety of visitors as best as possible.
Changes the board made this year to the racetrack at the fairgrounds addressed both goals.
About $40,000 worth of improvements were made to the fairgrounds race track this year, completed in advance of main grandstand attractions such as the tractor pull, mud bog and three-quarter midgets race.
Improvements included raising the catch fence from 5 to 15 feet and replacing fencing that was 15 years old and too short in corners for adequate safety.
These changes represent continued track improvements since a July 15, 1999, tragedy, when a vehicle driven during a grandstand mud bog event crashed through a fence and struck three Columbus teenage girls, killing one and critically injuring the other two. Investigators at the time concluded the size and configuration of the track contributed to the fatal accident.
Putting caution at the forefront of concerns is important, and these latest changes should reduce even further the possibility of serious incidents involving fans.
Another notable change is that the banking of the track increased. That type of improvement could have long-term benefits, increasing the possibly of attracting more racing events. Considering the enthusiasm for auto racing in this community — especially with the achievements of three-time NASCAR champion and Columbus resident Tony Stewart — it makes sense to make this community asset as valuable as possible. Attracting more racers and fans for additional events in the future would only grow the fair franchise.
Kudos to the fair board for making track changes that should have long-term safety and financial benefits.