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

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"Some of the board members are just paranoid and they have grudge against Jerry. The audit will prove us," said Malchow

Marks said they will seek legal action if any financial mismanagement is found in the audit. However, she said the audit may have to wait until next year because no funds are currently available to cover the $3,000 cost.

Additionally, Marks said the Fair Board recently learned it has never held a non-profit classification and will have to work with previous sponsors to clarify any issues.

β€œThe board took it for granted for years that we were a 501c3 organization. We were selling ourselves to sponsors as something they could write-off on their taxes,” Marks said.

The Blue Earth County Agricultural Society addressed the issue for its side earlier this year by splitting the Fair Board off into a non-profit named the Blue Earth County Fair Association. The campground was turned into its own business organization. Marks said the fair shareholder rights were transferred over for both organizations.

Battle on the horizon

Marks and Little said their plan is to move the fair to Mankato by 2015 and finance the cost by selling the campgrounds. They hope to raise at least $250,000 with the sale and cover the remaining costs through grants and donations.

They have been looking into land around the Mankato Regional Airport as a possible site. Marks said they are hoping Blue Earth County would be interested in buying the site, though they have not yet created a formal proposal.

For 2014, a minimal version of the county fair will be held in Garden City to help prevent further fund loss.

But the Fair Board's organizational rules require they obtain a majority of support of shareholders in a vote before the campgrounds can be sold. Marks said the fair board also wants majority support from shareholders before they are willing to move the fair.

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