Scout Restores 'Taj Mahal' of goat barns at Utah State Fairpark
A lot of hot sweat and cold cash invested in project that kept growing
By: Scott D. Pierce, The Salt Lake Tribune
The Utah State Fairpark is a popular place for Boy Scouts looking for an Eagle Scout service project. Fix a few picnic tables. Mend a fence. Do some cleanup.
Fifteen-year-old Quinn Argyle, on the other hand, has spent much of his summer restoring the fair's goat barn -- a project that started big and just kept getting bigger.
His father, Shane, put a price tag of at least $25,000 on the project. State Fair Executive Director Clark Caras estimated the value at something north of $40,000.
"It's got to be one of the biggest Eagle Scout projects I've ever seen undertaken," Caras said. "I mean, I painted garbage cans. We've had lots of Eagle Scout projects out here, and we appreciate every bit of that. But just the scope and scale of this is just amazing."
This story begins with a young boy and his goats. Quinn Argyle tends a flock of dairy goats at his West Jordan home, which he first exhibited at the state fair when he was 8.
"I just love working with goats," he said. "And I thought, 'Maybe I could do a project at the goat barn.' "
He asked Andrew Carlino, the Fairpark's operations director, "If you were king for a day, what would you have done with this barn?"
One of Carlino's suggestions was removing the drywall drop ceiling, which was installed in the 1970s.
"The wood structure up there is just amazing," Quinn said. "I just wanted to restore that to the goat barn because it just looks amazing. It gives it that more early-1900s look, rather than the caged-in look."
The barns date to the early 20th century and, at one point, were used to house troops waiting to be shipped off to World War I. Since then, upkeep has been sporadic, and that drop ceiling made the barn feel cramped and stuffy. "I knew I wanted to take that out," Quinn said.
Added his father, with a smile: "I was hoping he would choose something smaller from Andrew's list."
It wasn't as easy as just tearing out the ceiling and the wooden grid that supported it. There were lead paint and asbestos to worry about, so finding the right contractors wasn't easy. And while everyone worked at a reduced rates, it wasn't cheap.
"But we have a little family foundation and I had some money earmarked for a project [that] didn't materialize this past year," Shane Argyle said. "So we had money in there that went to fund this."
Quinn recruited and led volunteers. But he also spent a lot of time in the middle of the mess, laboring day after day to remove debris.
"After about the fourth Dumpster, I could see he had a little bit of a look of, 'What have I got myself into?' " Shane Argyle said. "But he's been good the whole time."
The result is startling. Compared with the barns that still have drop ceilings, the goat barn seems spacious and airy. "You can breathe in here now," Quinn said.
And the fair staff is thrilled. "I'm not kidding you -- the folks in the goat industry are going to walk into the barn and wonder what happened," Caras said. "It's the Taj Mahal of goat barns now."
That's because Quinn's first project led to another. After a week of backbreaking work removing the ceiling and cleaning up the mess, the Scout spent another couple of days removing hundreds of screws, nails and wires that had been attached to the now-exposed tension rods.
All four garage doors in the building were either broken or breaking; they've all been replaced. A new sign was installed on the outside. The cracked and broken floor has been epoxied and made smooth, meaning cleanup will take a couple of hours instead of days.
And after years of exhibiting goats there, Quinn was tired of the broken hose bibs. "So I just decided to replace them with another hose bib that has a quarter turn," he said, "so it's a lot easier to turn on and off."
And that $80 came out of his own pocket.
"That's a lot of goats he has to milk to make that," Shane Argyle said. "He didn't just ask others to ante up, he put some of his own money in, too."
Right now, Quinn can't wait for the fair to begin.
"That's like my second home for a week, because I'm always there making sure the goats are OK -- milking them, feeding them, watering them," he said. "It's definitely worth it."