The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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November 14, 2013

Blue Earth County Fair faces fight for SURVIVAL

Falling attendance, financial troubles may lead to closing one of state's oldest county fairs


Little said people do not want to drive 20 minutes outside of Mankato to visit the fair. He said a series of high profile drunk driving stings have worsened this perception. He said the limited funds from the limited attendance has prevented them from offering more robust events. He said people end up believing there is nothing to do at the fair.

“It's ridiculous to have this (attendance) in a big county like Blue Earth. We gave out some free admission passes and people still didn't show up," said Little. “People want to drink and have fun (in Mankato) without having problems.”

Marks also said the Garden City limitations made it worse when the only financially viable weekend for the fair was during the same time as the highly popular RibFest event. She said the only other weekends either lacked availability for their grandstand events, which are the fair's only money making activities, or forced them to fight several other local county fairs at the same time.

“If it wasn't for the grand stand events, we would have gone out of business years ago. We don't have options for other weekends,” Marks said.

Financial Fiasco

Little said the Board is also planning to hire a firm to conduct a comprehensive audit of the fair's financial records. He said they are worried about the disorganized nature of the records. He also said they are concerned that serious fraud or theft.

“We have needed a review of finances for years. Even if there is no theft, we need to account for where the money has gone,” Little said.

Mark and Little directly accused two former board members that resigned Tuesday of possible mismanagement: Jerry Kramer, who served as fair board president, and Karen Malchow, who served as vice-president and treasurer. Kramer and Malchow both denied any wrongdoing and said the audit would prove they acted correctly.

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