Shareholders vote to move Blue Earth County Fair in Minn.

Farm Forum

MANKATO, Minn. (AP) — Despite some emotional opposition, shareholders of the Blue Earth County Fair have voted to move the 154-year-old event from its historic location in Garden City, Minn., to the edge of Mankato, Minn.

The vote happened on Jan. 9, with 175 people favoring the sale of the current fairgrounds and 76 people opposing it. If a feasibility study shows a move makes financial sense, the fair could be in its new location as soon as 2015, the Mankato Free Press reported.

The annual agricultural event has been struggling, and the Fair Board is convinced that the event’s future depends on bringing the fairgrounds to the county’s population center.

“I truly believe if we don’t move it, we’re going to lose it,” said Board Chair Kelly Marks. “We’re very far in debt.”

The move is contingent on the daunting task of constructing a new fairgrounds from scratch, which could cost millions.

Some who opposed the move were emotional, and didn’t want to see it move from the picturesque Garden City location, bordered on three sides by the Watonwan River. Board member Liz Madsen said she understands the concern.

“We’ve got beautiful land. But that doesn’t bring the people out. … We can’t get them to come to us,” Madsen said.

Supporters of the current fairgrounds offered suggestions to keep it going, including bus service from Mankato and boosting advertising.

Bryan Stading, executive director of a regional business development center, said surrounding counties host fairs that attract more people than residents of those counties. For example, the Steele County Fair attracts about 350,000 people, and makes a profit of about $140,000 each year.

Blue Earth County, with a population of 64,000, drew 5,000 people to last year’s three-day fair, and ended up losing about $49,000.

“I’m sorry, Garden City. We have to think of the fair,” Madsen said. “How do we keep this beautiful county fair that’s been with us more than 150 years alive?”