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Project to upgrade North Florida Fairgounds moving forward

Blueprint studying property needs
041422 North florida fairgrounds.png
Posted at 6:04 PM, Apr 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-14 19:08:01-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Every year, the North Florida Fairgrounds draw in around 200,000 visitors to the Tallahassee area. That’s about the same number as Tallahassee’s population itself.

Now, the Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency is working to get even more people to the area.

“The North Florida Fair began in the late 1930s here in Leon County. For about 10 years, it was hosted at various locations around our county. In 1949, this location became its permanent home,” explained Tatiana Daguillard. She is with Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency and managing the project to bring the 107-acre site into the 21st century.

“The fairgrounds were selected as a project by the community,” Daguillard said.

She is talking about the Fairgrounds Beautification and Improvement project. In 2020, the intergovernmental agency board approved $12 million to make it happen. This spring, project leaders are working on a master plan for what’s next.

“We’re going to be doing a lot of site surveying investigation looking at what’s going on with the existing buildings and facilities,” Daguillard added.

Some of the larger buildings at the fairgrounds were built between 1956 and 1966. Air-conditioning is limited to just two of the larger buildings.

Rhea Lana’s of Tallahassee was making the most of it for their consignment sale of women’s and children's clothing during our visit.

“I love it here,” shared Janet Friesen. “Checking the community looking for spaces, it was very difficult to find something.”

Friesen was leading the sale. It is one of many events, outside the fair itself, that draws in visitors. Daguillard says as many as 100,000 people visit the grounds for non-fair events.

Friesen said she would like to see “more buildings. They have so many activities here, that it’s sometimes hard to get the space when you need it.”

“We’d be able to bring in more vendors and bring in other divisional representatives,” added Andy Zimmerman, president of the Big Bend Model Railroad Association. They host their annual train show at the fairgrounds and also could use more space. They’ve been doing so since 2003.

The train show brought in more than 900 visitors last year alone and contributing to the nearly $80 million the fairgrounds brings to the local economy each year.

Improving these grounds could bring in even more money helping businesses nearby.

Daguillard said there is a lot of under-utilized commercial and retail real estate around the Fairgrounds property. Increasing traffic to this site could potentially fill these openings and keep more money in the surrounding community.

“I look forward to seeing that through and making the community proud of whatever those final recommendations are,” Daguillard concluded.

Planners still have to survey the property before they can lay out what specific changes or additions will be made. Daguillard said they hope to be able to present a final master plan recommendation to the IA board in December.

Check out upcoming events at the fairgrounds here.