"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Friday, August 12, 2016

Let's keep community supper on Wednesday

Our county fair is a great county fair. The famous song actually uses the term "state fair," remember?" In Stevens County, the superlative is just as called for.
Our fair seems twice as big as when I was a young adult. It went through a phase where it took a back seat to the Wheaton fair. Legend has it that Wheaton picked up momentum with a stroke of luck: booking a band just before it became big-time. Those bands and performers were once a centerpiece of our rural fairs. Morris had a run of several years bringing in some household names in country entertainment. It was the thing to do in those days. We got the famous puppet "Shotgun Red" here.
We got Donny Osmond but I don't remember if Marie was here. Today Marie touts weight-loss products. I don't think people are as embarrassed about being overweight as they once were. The fair is not a place to visit if you're shunning food.
Our 2016 fair had a wrinkle that got us disoriented. We always assume the community supper is held on Wednesday night. It takes over the fair that night, quite justifiably. It is the kick-off event for the fair. The serving lines can be long but they move fast. It uses the Lee Center which didn't exist when I was young. The fair board brings in entertainment for the community supper. Some awards get announced. In recent years I haven't gone because it's rather loud and congested - a mob scene of sorts - for a family with a 90-plus person. But I'm totally congratulatory about the event.
What's strange is this: it was held on Tuesday this year. When first made aware of this, I just felt the fair was continuing to burst its buttons with its continuing success, and was expanding its schedule by a day. A billboard on the north end of town proclaimed the fair dates as beginning with Tuesday. That's the 9th.
We assume the fair gets going full-bore on the day after the community supper. This year that would be Wednesday. Our family went out to the fair Wednesday at around 3 p.m. We approached that short dirt road that would take us to that expansive parking lot on the south end. We'd always roll by the Michaelson residence as we went to get parked. We'd wave to the Virgin Mary (well, figuratively). We belt "blessed" arriving at the fair. "Mary" was that little figurine in front of what looked like a bathtub. It's nice to be reminded of the better spiritual elements of our nature.
As we turned into that dirt road Wednesday, I was immediately taken aback by signs reporting that the lot was reserved by a private business interest. "Can't be," I thought to myself. "This is a public fair that promotes free and ample parking."
We continued to the parking area where I spotted someone wearing a shirt that indicated he was involved with the private event. He was nice and informed us that indeed, as indicated by the sign, the lot was closed off to the general public. "That's rude," I thought. The gentleman told us we could park in front of the Lee Center. Thanks, I told him, but this would be too long a walk for the 90-plus member of the family, to get to the 4-H foodstand. We went home. I was in a mood to not even come back to the fair this year.
The business that reserved the parking lot is like the 800-pound gorilla in this area. I suppose they get what they want. The next day, I got an email from a friend explaining some background: the community supper on Tuesday did not represent, really, an expansion of the fair schedule. This friend informed me that Tuesday was chosen because this was an open date for "Tonic Sol-fa," the featured musical group.
In my humble opinion, it was not that essential to book this particular group. I remember one year when a very fine '50s rock 'n' roll band came. It was a blast. The fair board created confusion by having the community supper on Tuesday night.
The fair board must realize that there's a broad swath of the general public out there who don't know all the fine details of these big public events - the background. As a newspaper employee I was always aware, almost to a fault, of the background (and that included the politics). Today I'm in that broad swath of the general public who are detached.
On Thursday morning I had breakfast at McDonald's with a party that included someone who was confused by the fair schedule just like me. He said he had taken his family to the fair Wednesday night expecting to dine at the 4-H foodstand, but it was closed. That must have been tremendously disappointing. He just assumed, as did I, that the fair opens up completely once the community supper has been held. It feels strange if it doesn't.
As I pieced everything together, I deduced the following: the Stevens County Fair essentially followed the same schedule it always does. The one exception was the community supper which was moved to Tuesday just to accommodate the schedule of "Tonic Sol-fa" (a group I've never heard). "Tonic Sol-fa" can't be that good.
Had the supper been held Wednesday like always, my family would not have even attempted to visit the fair Wednesday afternoon, and my friend would not have tried to check out the 4-H foodstand Wednesday night. I would not have been offended by a private interest - Superior - taking over a big chunk of the fairgrounds, because the Superior event would have been outside the fair schedule.
So, now I'm disoriented and trying to figure out how the fair will be run in the future. Our county fair is a great county fair. Let's just not confuse people.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

1 comment:

  1. Marie Osmond was here with Donny that year. It was a great show, albeit uncomfortably cold that evening (many concert attendies came in winter coats).

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