Fairbury Improvement Group Leader Dale Maley recently announced that the Fairbury Improvement Group has completed its list of 14 projects for the summer. While some of the projects on the list were not as laborious as others, Maley is proud of the work that the group accomplished.
    “It feels good to know that we’ve been improving Fairbury and not just letting it fall apart,” Maley said. “When you have a small town and a group like this, it takes a while to get things figured out, but after you get past that first year, you find that you can get a lot of projects done.”
    The FIG was organized about three years ago as a group of community members that wanted to get together in an effort to make the community a better place.
    “We want to improve the quality of life for citizens and visitors alike,” Maley said.
    The group has a mailing list of more than 50 members currently, but the monthly meeting attendance is typically between 12 and 20 people. Members come from all walks of life. David Slagel, Fairbury’s mayor, is a member of the group and others are local business owners, retired individuals and three or four board members from the Fairbury Echoes Museum.
    During its first year, members created an improvement list. Maley said it was essentially a spreadsheet that was filled with the members’ improvement ideas. With a list of ideas in place, the group started to figure out which projects they felt could be completed within a particular year.
    “After that initial project list was completed, we just kept adding to it with new suggestions,” Maley said. “Each fall, we look at what projects we might want to work on for the following year. A lot of the projects we choose to do each year are chosen because of the funding we have available and the amount of time required for completion. Most of the projects we do are in the summer, so we’re limited to about three or four months to get everything done.”
    The first year, the group completed all of its planned projects, but Maley said those projects were short in comparison to the renovation of Marsh Park, which was added to last year’s summer agenda.
    “The Marsh Park renovation was a 16-week project that took pretty much the whole summer,” Maley said. “However, we did get some other small projects completed, too. This year, we had everything pretty much planned out last fall, it was just a question of waiting until the nice weather hit. I would say we started in May and we had just about everything completed by mid-June.”
    Similar to the first year, Maley said there weren’t really any big projects planned for completion this summer. In preparation for Marsh Park’s grand reopening on July 28, a few of this year’s projects were associated with the Marsh Park renovation. Other projects on the FIG’s to-do list were associated with Fairbury’s Sunken and Central parks.
    “One of the projects I am proud of this year is the new sidewalk that leads into Sunken Park,” Maley said. “The sidewalk was installed by city crews to provide for easier event access at the park. The city workers also poured a pad and installed a new steel bench and planters in Central Park.”
    The idea to add a sidewalk to Sunken Park became apparent during the city’s first Taste of Fairbury food festival last summer. Although Maley reports that the event was well-received, some people reported that it was difficult to carry a plate of food down the hill into the park.
    “We used Sunken Park for all the tents and eating tables, but all of the food vendors were set up on Main Street. Well, Sunken Park really is sunken, 36 inches. So, we ran into this issue of people having difficulty getting their food down to the park tables,” Maley said. “So, we asked the city guys if they could add a nice ramp sidewalk for us during that event each year and they agreed. They actually had that installed early in the summer and it will be ready for this year’s event, which I believe is in August.”
    Over the past three years, the only FIG projects that ended up being more of a challenge than Maley had initially anticipated, was repainting Fairbury’s historic business advertisement signs. There were three signs that the group wanted to repaint and Maley decided to do one each summer. The first year was the Occident Flour sign. Last year was the Swing and Steidinger sign and this year it was Archer House sign.
    “This summer I painted the third and last sign in mid-May,” Maley said. “The first challenge I ran into, is that the lift wouldn’t get me close enough to the building to paint the sign. Fortunately, the Ace Hardware guys helped me out and we repositioned the lift up on Main Street so that I could paint the sign.
    “Once that was figured out I got started on painting the sign, but on the second day of painting, we had a lot of wind in the forecast. I got up on the lift, but I learned a lesson that day. If it’s so windy that it blows your ball cap off  when your 40 feet in the air it’s time to call it a day. The next day I had nice and calm weather, so I was able to finish restoring the sign.”
    Although the FIG has completed its planned summer projects for this year, Maley said there’s always something else to work on.
    “People will always come up with new ideas, so we have not had any issues running out of projects,” Maley said. “Some of our members went out and helped plant trees in the early spring out at Munz Park. That little park is going to be nice when it’s done and I think it makes another great addition to Fairbury’s parks.”