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Idea holds water: Kids raise money for barn at Clackamas fair

The Molalla Country Cows 4-H Club makes $10,000 for a multiuse facility by selling bottled water



CANBY -- Terri Hunnicutt and her 4-H kids hope to build a barn with water -- bottled water. It will be no small task.

The barn they want to replace is the old Clackamas County Fair livestock barn, which has a leaky roof, rotting wood and an outdated electrical system.

A new barn could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. But Hunnicutt and her kids are raising money one $1 bottle at a time.

Hunnicutt's efforts come at a time when fairgrounds statewide need to upgrade aging facilities. Fairgrounds also are becoming more business savvy, converting barns and other buildings into multiuse facilities to be rented throughout the year, said John McCulley, executive secretary of the Oregon Fairs Association in Salem.

But in tough economic times, finding money to make this all happen isn't easy.

"Everything is old and run-down, and it hasn't been taken care of the way it needed to be because the funds weren't there," Hunnicutt said. "This is a way for funds to be made."

Skeptics had their doubts about "Build a Barn" water, which had a label complete with the phrase "Bottled at the source . . . North Powder, Oregon."

Now naysayers are drinking their words. Bottled water sales have raised about $10,000.

Tents inside barn: Few involved with the Clackamas County Fair would argue the need for a new livestock barn. When it rains, tents and umbrellas go up inside the barn to protect against drips.

The barn's layout, which includes permanent enclosures for animals, becomes a hindrance when other events, such as the auto swap or tack sales, take place.

"Sometimes, it is just not user-friendly," said Rayven Davis, manager of the Clackamas County Fair & Event Center.

Davis and others have envisioned a new multiuse building that would serve as a barn during the fair and accommodate other events throughout the year. The concept is not new.

"As fairs try to attract more varied events to their facility, they are trying to get more multipurpose," McCulley said.

"It all comes down to money," he said. "You look at the size of those facilities and the cost of maintaining them, and it makes economic sense to utilize them as much as possible."

Plans for a multipurpose livestock barn in Clackamas County are in the works. There is no estimated price tag or proposed design at this point. A bond or grants may help pay the cost, Davis said. Construction is years away.

But the project has money in the bank.

Hunnicutt and her 4-H Club, Molalla Country Cows/Livestock, started selling bottled water at the 2002 horse fair. During the past 15 months, they have set up booths at the county fair, a dog show, a basketball tournament and a handful of other community events.

The 20-ounce bottles of water bore the group's private label, "Build a Barn." Also on the label was the picture of a small barn with a big umbrella overhead, protecting it from the rain.

Advertisers paid for a space on the label, covering the cost of the bottled water and shipping.

"It's amazing to me . . . how many people really love water," said Vicki Juneski of Canby, who prefers to drink Pepsi but has helped sell bottled water.

"I had my doubts" about Hunnicutt's fund-raiser, said Juneski, whose granddaughter is in 4-H.

But not anymore.

Hunnicutt, who lives outside Molalla, is working to solicit advertisers for the next batch of bottled water, which will have a new label that shows what the proposed barn could look like. Emily Tsao: 503-294-5928; emilytsao@news.oregonian.com