Franklin County Fairgrounds gets $70K grant for electrical system upgrade

  • A fried dough trailer leaves the Franklin County Fairgrounds in September after the four-day run of the annual fair. The fairgrounds was recently awarded a $70,000 grant to support an electrical upgrade. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 10/25/2021 4:53:39 PM

GREENFIELD — The Franklin County Fairgrounds was recently awarded a $70,000 grant to support an electrical upgrade of the fairground’s power system.

The grant, jointly administered by MassDevelopment and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, was one of 12 capital grants awarded from the Cultural Facilities Fund.

“It’s a very exciting project,” said Michael Nelson, president of the Franklin County Agricultural Society, which manages the fairgrounds on Wisdom Way. “It’s going go allow us to upgrade some aged equipment. ... We’ll have increased electric coverage by means of the LED lights, and it’s also a significant cost saving by having those lights.”

The Cultural Facilities Fund — which provides capital and planning grants to nonprofits, colleges and municipalities that own or operate facilities primarily focused on the arts, humanities and science — is funded annually through the governor’s capital budget.

“The Cultural Facilities Fund supports local economies across Massachusetts by ensuring our cultural institutions have the capital they need to build, expand, renovate and — most importantly — continue welcoming visitors,” MassDevelopment President and CEO Dan Rivera said in a prepared statement. “We are excited to announce initial grants to 12 organizations who will benefit strongly from these resources, and we encourage all cultural institutions in the commonwealth to take advantage of our upcoming application round.”

The Franklin County Fairground’s project involves the replacement of 44 utility poles that are currently “beyond their lifespan,” upgrading the electrical grid with new circuit panels and installing LED lights, Nelson said. Most of the poles, originally used as telephone poles, are at least 40 years old.

Initially, the grant application was for a walkway repaving project, allowing all guests — regardless of mobility — inclusive and safe access throughout the facility.

“We ended up getting the (Destination Development Capital Grant Program) grant (for the walkway project),” Nelson explained, referencing a $79,000 matching grant. “Because we got the funding from one state agency for the funding, we can’t accept the funding for that project.”

So, the Franklin County Agricultural Society applied for and received a project change so the grant money could instead be used for the electrical upgrade.

The full cost of the project is roughly $140,000, according to Nelson.

“Very much like our other capital fundraisers we’re doing right now, we are going to be looking to do some capital fundraising for it,” he said of making up the difference in cost. “We also have the $79,000 we need to raise for the paving project as well as the other $65,000 for the mudslide. We do have a little bit of savings ... but we’re more than likely going to have to dip into a loan to provide the match.”

Nelson said he anticipates construction on the fairgrounds’ power system to begin in March, “as soon as spring thaw comes” and be completed in about three weeks.

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne


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