The Free Press, Mankato, MN


June 3, 2014

County Fair move has promise

Why it matters: Moving to a new fair ground remains a big challenge but the county fair board is taking the right steps so far.

What is likely to be the last Blue Earth County Fair held in Garden City this summer will be a time to remember 154 years of history and to look forward to what supporters hope will be a bigger and better fair in the future.

The fair shareholders, after a contentious and emotional debate last year, voted to move the fair from its longtime home and search for a new site closer to Mankato. The decision came after years of declining attendance, which led to financial troubles.

Last week the newly comprised fair board learned that an audit of past fair records did not turn up any theft of funds, as some on the board had feared. That’s good news that allows fair supporters to move ahead with a clean slate.

Some on the fair board say there were poor spending decisions that led to financial difficulties. That may or may not be true, but the fact is the fair has been suffering financially for years in large part because of its location. That’s why finding a new site with new facilities closer to the major population center of the county and region makes sense.

So far the effort to accomplish that has been done with deliberate and methodical steps, including creating an architect’s conceptual plan of a new fairgrounds, working on a feasibility study for the move and partnering with other groups that could be involved with developing and using a new fairgrounds.

At this summer’s fair, attendees will be able to see the first detailed information about how the fair board will tackle the move.

Finding land close to Mankato — land that will be expensive — and finding the financial backing to develop a new fairgrounds remains a big challenge. But the Mankato area is rich in agriculture and rural-related businesses that should find a natural tie-in to supporting a new fair site that can be successful.

So far, those working on the move appear to being doing things right.

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