Sonoita Fairgrounds Manager Lacy Beyer successfully applied for federal and state grants totaling $1,157,379 to help fund racing and the county fair. Photo by Marion Vendituoli

This March has brought some welcome news to the Santa Cruz County Fair and Rodeo Association (SCCFRA).The organization was awarded two grants, totaling $1,157,379. 

One grant, for $139,379, was provided by the American Rescue Plan (ARPA) to be used for county fair expenses. This federal relief plan was established by the Biden administration to help organizations recover from financial losses caused by the COVID epidemic. 

The second grant, for $1,018,000, was given by the state of Arizona to both Santa Cruz and Cochise County Fair Associations for racing. These are the only two counties in Arizona whose facilities offer both county fair and active horse racing venues. This grant is divided into three categories, racing expenses, purse money, and $676,500 allocated to capital improvements at the fairgrounds. The grant came from the state senate passage of bills in June 2021, allocating monies and earmarking them for racing purses as well as capital improvements to support horse racing in general. 

SCCFRA manager Lacy Beyer had attended a county fair managers’ meeting in Phoenix on August 12, where she learned about the grants and that applications were due on September 23, the Wednesday after the County Fair. 

A comprehensive verification of the financial records of the past two years had to be researched and submitted, all during the busiest time of year at the Sonoita Fairgrounds, during the Labor Day Rodeo and the County Fair. “Lacy is to be commended for her diligence in getting this done in time to receive the grant in such a busy season” SCCFRA board president Harry Dotson stated. 

The SCCFRA board has created a committee that will meet frequently to determine how monies will be spent. Dotson hopes that the improvements these grants will help finance will have a ripple effect with the entire facility. Some of the projects that are in the works are renovation of the restrooms and the jockey room, improved footing for the racetrack, electric upgrades, as well as equipment procurement. “Patience will be needed by everyone as getting materials at this time is a challenge so it may be a while before anything really noticeable happens,” Dotson noted.