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Despite the fact there was no Fan Fair this year and it faces an uncertain future, the project was far from a failure.
Everyone knew going in that luring people off U.S. 127 to stop in Owen County on their way to the Kentucky Speedway for the big NASCAR race would be difficult. The highway isn’t the main artery to the Speedway. Most of the traffic coming through Owenton would be people from Lexington and other areas of Kentucky who might not consider stopping for a break so close to the Speedway.
Over the course of three years, Fan Fair expanded to include a lot of other events that pulled it off US 127 and to the Owen County Fairgrounds. The move and expanded events not only impacted the number of travelers willing to leave the highway to stop, it made it seem like a community-oriented event and not one targeting visitors.
The long slate of events last year probably also affected the number of volunteers willing to suffer the heat and humidity of July in Kentucky for several days this year.
So the red flag was waved for Fan Fair 2014.
Despite this, I would call Fan Fair a success - not because there has been a flood of new dollars spent in Owenton at the local stores or that a lot of new people came back to Owen County after being exposed to the community during Fan Fair.
Fan Fair was a success because people tried. They tried something new in hopes of sparking something that would improve the community.
A lot of time and energy is spent considering how to bring new people or businesses to the county. So far, it seems these efforts have had limited impact.
But with Fan Fair, we have a great example of strong grass roots effort to improve. It was a radical idea because nothing like it had been done before in Owen County.
The Owen County Visioneers, who organized and orchestrated the event, saw an opportunity and offered their own sweat to make Fan Fair work.
They were willing to put forth the effort and dedicate hundreds of hours of their time on the chance it could help Owen County.
The big question was always would these travelers be willing to stop in Owen County.
I remember the first year when the Visioneers posted checkered flags and signs announcing Fan Fair was ahead. I was impressed that they went to all the trouble and expense to build these signs you couldn’t ignore.
It’s a shame more visitors didn’t take advantage of all the hard work.
But sometimes, success can’t be judged by numbers or in simple black and white terms.
Sometimes, success can be found by simply trying.
John Whitlock is the editor of the News-Herald.