Date: Dec. 1, 2005

As the earliest public assembly venues in the United States, fairgrounds have in recent years had a reputation as quaint, rustic plots of crabgrass that host the annual carnival and pie contest. But in an increasingly competitive economy, where even state and county properties have to prove their worth to survive, these sleepy venues have been jolted awake and are formulating business plans to aggressively tout their assets - and build on them.

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