New Jefferson County Fair manager tells of upgrades

‘Focus on providing ways for people to get a dose of joy’

Danny McEnerney.

Danny McEnerney.

PORT TOWNSEND — Danny McEnerney, the new manager of the Jefferson County Fair and Fairgrounds, is looking forward to upgraded fairgrounds and revitalized programs.

Formerly the Key City Public Theatre general manager, McEnerney is replacing Sue McIntire, longtime fair manager who retired last fall. He began working three days a week on May 2 and will serve full time beginning June 1.

During her tenure, McIntire dealt with a growing homeless encampment that began about 2007 and ended in 2021. The encampment proved to be expensive for the fair association, McIntire had said.

Changes are in the works, McEnerney promises.

The public can expect to see grounds renovated. Several state and county grants have been awarded to improve the horse arena, campground and some structures as well as adding another part-time worker to the present one-man, part-time grounds crew.

“We can’t change things overnight,” McEnerney said Tuesday, adding that the fairgrounds, which will host the Jefferson County Fair on Aug. 12-14, hadn’t been updated since the 1980s.

“I expect it to take a solid year before things are close to being up to par with what the public deserves,” he said.

“Right now there sadly is some less-attractive infrastructure things we need to tackle to make the grounds more financially fit.”

For instance, the campground — which has 15 sites now open for basic camping — isn’t expected to be fully open until July 1, after RV sites have been made operational with electrical power, water and sewage.

Grants funding $37,000 in renovations are in hand for the campgrounds, McEnerney said.

“People might not see fun stuff happening for awhile,” he said, citing as an example of a top priority the need to fix water leaks that are contributing to an $1,800 monthly bill.

But in 2003, the public can expect events produced by the fair association that are “financially accessible, interesting and fun,” McEnerney said.

Those events are to mirror community wishes.

“The public can expect to be welcomed and listened to,” McEnerney said. “The public can expect us to continuously be improving and working towards creating spaces that have less barriers to usage.

“We want to welcome the community and the county, and we understand that this is a service for the community and for the county.”

McEnerney said his role is expanded to be more than the usual county fair manager.

He is overseeing not just the fair, fairgrounds venue usage and camping, but also providing events and creating partnerships.

“My personal, Pollyannaish outlook on this role? Focus on providing ways for people to get a dose of joy,” he said.

“How can the gem that is the fairgrounds serve our county all year long?” McEnerney added.

“We have an amazing space that is just waiting for new energy and life to be breathed into it, and people are coming out of the woodwork to help make that happen.”

McEnerney said the board, led by new President Don Pruitt, has been rejuvenated.

“I’ve been to three board meetings so far, and it’s obvious in the room that people are starting to see a way out of the last two very, very hard years of COVID, and the difficult situation the fair association was put in,” he said.

“We have board members now who are willing to try new things, think forward, and want to have some fun.”

McEnerney, 43, has served since 2018 as the general manager of Key City Public Theatre in Port Townsend. Before that, he owned a design business in Port Townsend.

The Fair Association met with McEnerney in January, but it took some time for him to leave his position at Key City Public Theatre,giving his involvement in helping Artistic Associate Brendan Chambers grow the Youth Education Program. He credits Executive Artistic Director Denise Winter at KCPT with a four-year intensive education in nonprofit management.

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Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at [email protected].

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