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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Fairgrounds: A Thoroughly Loved and Lived Home

Nick Roberson, Josh Cottle, Michael Lee, Kahlil Epps and Maria Venneri, all ’18, and all members of the swim team pose on the porch of their home, the infamous Fairgrounds. PHOTO BY GOVIND BRAHMANYAPURA.

“It’s become home,” Maria Venneri ’18 said right off the bat.
Home to the running joke that it will only be cleaned if burned to the ground, Fairgrounds is a place with a lot of heart. ‘Heart’ is a euphemism for the character of the house — it’s dirty, but it’s comfortable and holds a deluge of stories, the shared history and traditions of the swim team. The home’s residents are all too familiar with the double meaning: Kahlil Epps, Maria Venneri, Michael Lee, Nick Roberson, and Josh Cottle, all ‘18, have known each other since their first-year swimming at Grinnell College.
“For every swimmer or first-year that comes in during NSO weekend, there’s a party that’s thrown here, [and] that’s when I think most of us came into this house and met the people who lived here,” Epps described.
While the house may seem like nothing more than a party destination for many, the swim team calls Fairgrounds home. The kitchen wall has a space for recording heights, much like in a family home. The house bonding doesn’t end at parties; it continues into the cleanup afterwards.
“I didn’t see this house in daylight until my second semester of my second year,” Lee reflected.
The atmosphere of the house is not one of cleanliness, but it is an atmosphere of respect. According to Venneri, they are “trying to foster a culture so everyone feels really included while at Fairgrounds, so this is not just our space, but the swim team’s space.” For those on the swim and dive team, the house “is always open, metaphorically.” New house rules are created each year by the new tenants.
The basement exists outside of this safe space. A few years back, it was discovered that a homeless person had been spending a few nights in the basement of the house. In reference to the basement, Roberson said, “it’s terrifying.”
The house is furnished with a brown carpet which, surprising to those that have seen it, was originally white. The downside of the house comes from having a carpeted party area. “I wouldn’t want to lay down on this ground and sprawl,” Venneri said. Despite the cleanliness drawbacks, the house boasts ownership of a washer, dryer, and air conditioning.
“We’ve settled into the filth,” Lee announced.
Each room holds memories of previous tenants, from photo collages, swim team memorabilia, trophies and record boards, to chairs and tables ‘borrowed’ from the school, a large teddy bear nicknamed Charles Benson Bear, and a firepit made of bricks with mysterious origins. One of the few items the residents are protective of is the children’s basketball hoop, purchased recently from Goodwill. Small additions are made, but the house doesn’t change.
“Nothing really leaves this house, it’s kind of a final resting place,” Roberson said.
The name of the house comes from a sign, reading Fairgrounds, that pointed directly towards the house. In the last couple years, it was changed to be less prominent. Since 2008, the house has been rented exclusively by swim team members.
Over the summer, it was broken when a visitor attempted to climb onto the garage by jumping from the back-porch railing. According to Lee, the railing “gave way entirely” and had to be rebuilt from an old bed frame. More stories are sure to follow, as Lee said, “the year is young, so come Spring semester, that’s when all the crazy shit happens.”

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