Why the State Fair Is a Disaster for Fairgrounds, Towns, Schools
I’ve spent the last few years traveling to a fairground in Michigan and talking with the owners of some of the largest venues there.
And when I asked the same question to a number of my friends, they said the fairgrounds have become less fun to attend than the towns and the schools that host them.
It’s become too much work for the small-business owners who work in those venues.
That’s because they don’t have a lot of revenue to play with when they play fair and to draw visitors.
The fairgrounds, by contrast, are big business.
The Michigan Fair Association has estimated that the state’s two largest fairs generated $6 billion in annual revenue in 2015, an increase of about 25 percent from 2014.
The association’s chairman, Michael Stokes, said that, in the past, the state would have had some kind of incentive to keep the fairs open, even if the state was losing money.
But the Trump administration has taken that away.
“We are taking away the incentive,” Stokes said.
In 2017, Gov.
Rick Snyder signed legislation that requires that all new fairgrounds and parks be built to the standards of existing ones.
If the state cannot keep the sites in good repair, Stokes predicts, the Trump team will likely force the state to sell the property to a private entity.
The proposed sale would be worth about $400 million, according to the association.
In the meantime, the fairground owners said they are trying to negotiate new concessions with the state.
“The bottom line is the fair is just a death knell for our community,” said Gary Smith, the owner of the Topfield Fair, which runs from March 5 to March 10.
“There is no other option.”
The governor said that his administration is trying to reach a fairgrounds deal with the Trump Organization.
He declined to elaborate on what he means by a deal, but said the administration is working to establish a new system for selling and leasing property in the state that would reduce the need for government subsidies.
Smith said the Trump organization has no interest in keeping the property.
He said that since it was built in the 1980s, it is owned by the state, and that the fair should be managed as it was before.
“It’s not the fair we were hoping for,” he said.
The Fair in Michigan is not the only one facing a shortage of revenue.
A few weeks ago, the Fair in Indiana was forced to close for a two-week shutdown due to a water main break, which forced the closure of several local fairgrounds.
The Trump administration recently said it would be willing to work with the Fair’s owner to reopen the Indiana fair, which has been closed since July.
“But I do believe that we have to be very cautious in looking at this as a gift that Trump has given to us,” Stoke said.
“Because if you go back a few years, it would have been very difficult for us to make a deal to keep this fair.”