The Blue Earth County Fair is leaving the riverside fairgrounds it has known for 154 years. After some debate, more than two-thirds of the fair’s shareholders voted Thursday to sell the fairgrounds in little Garden City for a spot closer to Mankato.
In anticipation of the vote, sales for the $5 shares had surged in recent days. In the end, 251 people voted — 175 of them for the move.
The fair’s board had argued that in order to survive, the agricultural showcase needs to move closer to the city. Only 5,000 people attended last year’s three-day event, which lost $49,000.
If a feasibility study shows that a new 30-acre fairgrounds can be created with the help of building sponsorships and donations, the fair could be held at its new home by 2015, said Kelly Marks, the fair board’s president.
But some leaders worry that it could become an expensive undertaking.
County Commissioner Will Purvis said he’s concerned about how much a new fairgrounds could cost taxpayers. “I think it’s an extremely ambitious effort to find a piece of property close to Mankato and then put the infrastructure on it,” he said by phone Friday. He declined to reveal how he voted.
Purvis was on the fair board in the 1990s when another, similar vote to move the fair failed. “I’m well aware of what they’re going through,” he said. “It’s a tough situation.”
The fair will be held in Garden City in 2014, Marks said.
“We’ll promote it as the last year in that spot,” she said, “and hope that all the people who had a great time over the past 150 years and are still around come out and enjoy it.”