Think again, Maloney says.
“I love golf tournaments, don’t get me wrong,” she says. “But as far as a fundraiser goes, I think they’re very boring.”
The former Capitol Hill lobbyist and Cleburne County native moved back to Alabama in 2011. When she accepted the job of chamber director five months ago, her idea, she says, was to “step it up a notch.”
For this year’s fundraiser, Maloney decided to capitalize on the county’s rural identity and create something fun and interactive the whole town could enjoy — something a little more stimulating than golf.
“It’s hard to go to somebody and ask them to sponsor a hole, because there’s just not a whole lot of gusto that comes with it,” she explained.
Her original plan was a golf-ball drop from a hot-air balloon, and before she knew it, that idea had led to the planning of Cleburne County’s inaugural fair, which takes place Saturday at Ross Mountain Adventures campgrounds.
“I thought, well wouldn’t it be great if we took this and had this as a way to showcase our county? That’s what the chamber is meant to do,” said Maloney. “We’re supposed to lobby on behalf of our county, our resources and our businesses.”
Maloney decided to reach out to the county’s biggest nonprofit sector, area churches, to host traditional carnival games. The churches will get to keep their profits while adding to the community fun. Maloney’s father will be among them, she said, frying fish on behalf of Liberty Hill Congregational Methodist Church.
“His catfish is amazing,” she promises.
There will also be fresh produce available from area farmers, a livestock show from 4-H, and a “Best In Taste” contest sponsored by the Fruithurst Elementary PTO.
“We’re just doing sheep this year, but we hope to do this county fair every year,” says Maloney. “With that we hope that the livestock show grows with it.”
Other entertainment will include a mechanical bull, kid-friendly rides, a dunking booth and halftime preview shows from both Cleburne County and Ranburne high schools. Area artists will be selling their work, including The Dirt Dauber jeweler Minnette Partin-Laws, who makes jewelry out of chainmail metal.
Fair-goers looking for a challenge can look no further than the greased pig contest sponsored by First United Methodist Church. If you thought holding on to a bar of soap was hard, try catching a slippery, squealing animal.
“We do have very strict rules ... to ensure that the pig does not get hurt,” Maloney said. “The pigs are usually around 10 pounds, and the first person who’s able to pick it up and put it inside the ring wins.”
And anyone missing the golf tournament, rest assured — golf balls are still a big part of the annual fundraiser. The highlight of the fair is the hot-air balloon golf ball drop. For $10, participants can purchase balls, which will be numbered and dropped from a hot-air balloon at 5 p.m. The balls landing closest to one of 19 pins win a prize.
“I got to thinking we could promote this like a golf tournament and sell holes,” said Maloney. Plus, she was able to draft in additional sponsorship from area businesses. The hot-air balloon will do more than drop golf balls from the sky. Adults and kids can also take a ride for $20 and $15, respectively.
Maloney has high hopes for the activities taking place at Ross Mountain Adventures Saturday. “It’s a community coming together to have a good time and kick off the school year,” she said. “It’s everybody coming together to showcase what our county’s about.”
And although there won’t be a round of golf played, there should be enough fun to equal the pleasure of a hole-in-one.
IF YOU GO...
What: Cleburne County 2013 County Fair
When: Saturday, Noon to 8 p.m. Golf ball drop at 5 p.m.
Where: Ross Mountain Adventures, Heflin
Info: Visit the Clebune County Chamber of Commerce on Facebook.