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New Bonneville County Fairgrounds ready to open, including Melaleuca 4-H Events Center

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IDAHO FALLS — The new Bonneville County Fairgrounds will officially open Friday night with a ribbon-cutting ceremony but members of the media got a sneak peek of the facilities Thursday afternoon.

The fairgrounds, located near Sandy Downs Arena at 1542 East 73rd South, include the new Melaleuca 4-H Events Center. Melaleuca and CEO Frank VanderSloot donated $275,000 toward the building.

PHOTO GALLERY | THE NEW BONNEVILLE COUNTY FAIRGROUNDS

“I’m so excited about this, I can’t even tell you,” VanderSloot said. “Our kids are raised today by their cellphones, their iPads (and) virtual reality. They never get out to see the real thing. And in 4-H, kids get to get out there in the real world and do real things.”

Bonneville County Commissioner Bryon Reed has overseen the fairgrounds project since taking office in January 2017. He led the move from outdated facilities on a 5-acre piece of property near the Idaho Falls Zoo to the new 50-acre plot.

An artist’s rendering of the new Bonneville County Fairgrounds. | Courtesy Bonneville County

“We squeezed about a four-year building project into two years,” Reed said. “We still have areas that we are still completing and everyone, including the volunteers, has worked really hard to make this happen. This will open the door for many more youth to participate.”

In addition to the Melaleuca Events Center, there are three other buildings that include offices, meeting rooms, livestock holding pens, a large kitchen for classes and large spaces for community gatherings.

“Our program already is up about 30 percent meaning 30 percent more youth will be able to participate in 4-H activities,” Reed said.

The county sold the old fairgrounds on Rollandet Street to the city of Idaho Falls. It will be used to expand the zoo.

Melaleuca CEO Frank VanderSloot and Bonneville County Commissioner Bryon Reed tour the new fairground facilities Thursday afternoon. | Nate Eaton, EastIdahoNews.com

In addition to Melaleuca, county leaders relied on grants and donations to pay for the new facilities.

“We’ve had well over 100 donors for the entire project right down to youth that have donated $5 from the sell of their animal,” Reed said.

The facilities will be used throughout the year and the Melaleuca Events Center will possibly host the county’s indoor youth soccer league during winter months.

With more room, parking, and upgraded facilities, leaders hope more children will get involved.

“What the county’s doing what these folks is absolutely phenomenal,” VanderSloot said. “Kids learn to work at a young age and learn responsibility and learn character. They learn how to take a 1,000 pound steer and tame him from being wild down to where they’re gentle…That is a learning program for kids that you just can’t learn from an iPad.”

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