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Fundraising effort plows on for new 4-H building

Earl Nordby, of Huron, right, speaks with Jerome Hertel, manager of the South Dakota State Fair, at an event held Tuesday in Huron celebrating Nordby's $1 million contribution to an effort to build a new, $4 million 4-H exhibit hall at the fairgrounds. (Chris Mueller/Republic)

HURON -- Even with more than half the money raised in an effort to build a new 4-H exhibit hall at the South Dakota State Fairgrounds in Huron, those involved in the project know there's still a lot of work to be done.

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"It's work worth doing," said South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture Lucas Lentsch in an interview Tuesday with The Daily Republic. "The future of agriculture is embodied in this building."

About $4 million will need to be raised to replace the rundown Clover Hall, which was torn down after last year's State Fair, with a new 46,910-square-foot exhibit hall. Nearly $2.3 million has already been raised, including a $1 million contribution from Earl Nordby, a retired businessman from Huron. It was also announced Tuesday that the new building will be named the Nordby Exhibit Hall for 4-H, Youth and Community, as a result of Nordby's contribution.

Lentsch, who attended the event Tuesday, said it's worthwhile to recognize how far the fundraising effort has come, but it's also important to remember the work yet to be done.

"We are more than halfway and we're closing in on the end, but we're going to need help to get there," Lentsch said.

Nordby said he hopes the news of his contribution will entice others to give to the project.

"I feel it will be a real benefit," Nordby said, referring to his contribution. "I think it will attract a lot of attention."

Nordby has contributed money to projects elsewhere in the state, including the Pepsi-Cola Theatre, Pepsi-Cola Soccer Complex and Mitchell Area Safehouse in Mitchell. Nordby made his money in the soft-drink bottling industry.

State Fair Manager Jerome Hertel said the goal is to raise the entire $4 million before this year's fair, which will run from Aug. 28 through Sept. 1. If that can be accomplished, Hertel said, construction of the new building could begin in the spring of 2015.

The new building will have more than 35,000 square feet of exhibit space, multiple classrooms, a large kitchen, a portable stage and storage space. It will serve as an exhibit hall during the fair, but will remain open during the off-season for other events, such as farm shows, craft shows and concerts, and to house offices for the State Fair staff and Beadle County Extension.

Hertel said officials are currently in negotiations with an architect for the project, though he declined to name with architect.

"After they come up with a final design plan for the building, they'll be able to tell us more accurately whether that $4 million is going to cover everything," he said.

If the project does exceed its expected $4 million price tag, Hertel said the fundraising effort will continue until all the costs have been covered.

Hertel said he is hopeful the fundraising effort will continue to attract donors.

"It's been a grind, but people are very enthusiastic about the project," he said.

One of the most difficult parts of fundraising for the project has been finding people willing and able to get out and actually solicit donations, Hertel said.

"There are people out there who are interested in the project," he said. "We've just got to get out there and approach them, and that's what we're trying to do now."