CLAY COUNTY, Fla. — The Clay County tourism department estimates 20,000 people attend the Northeast Florida Scottish Games and Festival and the Clay County Fair.
The county plans on making improvements to the fairgrounds to attract more events and groups.
The sound of bagpipes could be heard in the Cattlemen’s Arena as the final preparations are made for the Northeast Florida Scottish Games and Festival.
“We’re bringing back ax throwing and archery, and also something new that started last year is the beer tent which was successful," festival president Audie Gibson said.
Gibson says the beer and wine sales will greatly increase their proceeds.
Proceeds that go directly to BASCA Inc., a non-profit in Green Cove Springs that helps special needs children and adults. The type of event that the county wants to attract to the fairgrounds.
The fairgrounds also could be the site for the return of Ham Jam, a popular barbecue cooking contest that also gives proceeds to charity.
The festival attracted country music acts such as Blake Shelton and Eric Church over nine years ago before it came to an end.
Meanwhile, the county waits to put its $22 million fairgrounds master plan into action.
Kimberly Morgan with the Clay County Tourism Department says they are looking at funding models and grants to begin infrastructure improvements to the fairgrounds.
“We are going to take it in phases, and really make sure that we’re not only providing the best venue for Clay County residents but for these events we’re trying to attract,” Morgan said.
Morgan says they have a grant being processed with the state to improve their existing exhibit building.
The master plan has been approved by county commissioners according to Morgan.
“We’re seeking grant funding for the renovations for the exhibit buildings and are exploring land acquisition options," Morgan said. "We’re in the research phase of funding models to make these projects a reality.”
A plan that could even pose a challenge for Scottish games.
“It’s going to change our entire layout, but we’ll adapt, and we can handle it, I think it’s going to be a plus for the fairgrounds," Gibson said. "This facility, there’s nothing in Northeast Florida like it."
Ham Jam organizer Ronnie Munsey says that Ham Jam is slated for Oct. 17 through Oct. 20, with proceeds from the event going towards the Rotary Club of Orange Park-Sunrise.
Munsey says the Ham Jam festivities will include a full carnival, food vendors, arts and crafts, different activities, and displays.
According to Clay County’s tourism department, Munsey is in the process of securing permits for the festival.