Posted on

Ag society’s shares sentimental documents

My Opinion
Jo Ann Spieth-Saylor, Editor

Once upon a time, in a land known for decades for a company that first crafted wagon wheels then evolved into a manufacturer of beautiful hardwood furniture, the company’s employees and stockholders were often treated to hefty bonuses for the workers and welcomed dividends for the shareholders.
As the company continued to be successful, shares of stock were split and were worth a considerable amount of money for those who opted to sell them.
Then one day, something unforeseen happened. The company eventually closed its doors, leaving some people holding stock that was no longer worth anything, except maybe memories of what was and what could have been.
That’s the way it is with stock; you never know what it’s going to be worth. The best advice is: Buy low; sell high. However, without a crystal ball, there’s no certainty of when to do either.
I tell this story of the now-defunct Keller Manufacturing Co. to compare it to the Harrison County Agricultural Society’s dilemma.
It seems that for years the ag society gained ‘members’ by selling ‘stock,’ thus creating ‘shareholders’ who could ‘ and did ‘ sell their stock to others. However, because the organization operated as a nonprofit, there were no dividends paid to shareholders and any income the ag society received went back into the organization, which owns the Harrison County Fairgrounds in Corydon and orchestrates the annual county fair.
Besides being able to say they own shares in the ag society, the only other benefit, at least that I’ve been able to determine, is each stockholder has annually received a complimentary pass to the fair which covered the cost of parking and provided seating in the grandstand for the nightly events during the fair.
In no way am I trying to belittle the ag society and its shareholders. As a 10-year 4-H member and Junior Leader who always entered projects in my county fair, I appreciate everyone who has helped maintain the fairgrounds through a variety of ways, including the purchase of stock. The Society’s board members ‘ and there have been several through the decades ‘ work tirelessly and with little thanks ‘ to put on the fair, a feat that’s occurred consecutively for the last 155 years.
While pursuing grant funding to make improvements to the fairgrounds, the current ag society board learned that the organization has been out of compliance since 1991 with state law regarding nonprofit organizations.
Prior to the Nov. 11 annual meeting, the Society’s board of directors encouraged shareholders to attend because ‘governing documents must be brought up to date’ in order to qualify for needed grants to repair and upgrade the fairgrounds.
The meeting was well attended, and the board, along with an attorney knowledgeable about nonprofit laws, thoroughly explained the reason for the requested change to the bylaws. Unfortunately, the majority of shareholders wanted to pursue other avenues to make sure there were no other options available, and the meeting was tabled until Dec. 16 to allow contact with the Indiana Attorney General’s office in hopes of finding a loophole.
According to the proposed change, instead of shareholders, the ag society would consist of members who would pay annual dues (the amount has yet to be determined). If passed, the new bylaws would give members the right to vote for directors plus allow them a free pass good for fair week.
This is similar to the operation of the Farm Bureau program, which many of these same people also belong to, or any number of other nonprofit organizations.
While it never hurts to pursue all avenues before making a change, the shares of stocks issued by the Harrison County Agricultural Society really aren’t worth more now than they would be after the bylaws are changed to be in compliance as a nonprofit entity. I would agree they do have sentimental value.
The only thing the delay has allowed is time for shareholders, if they so desire, to change the name on an historical piece of paper to someone else. And some of those old-time shareholders have indicated they plan to do just that, give shares to their grandchildren, so their names will be listed as ’emeritus’ stockholders.
That’s more than I have to show for my shares of Keller stock.