A capital improvements budget that includes nearly $14 million for one of the biggest transformations of the Minnesota State Fair since a flurry of Depression-era projects in the 1930s has been approved by the board that oversees fair operations.
Funding for the new West End Market and a transit hub on the old Heritage Square site in the northwest corner of the fairgrounds made up the bulk of the $15.6 million capital improvements and maintenance budget approved by the Minnesota State Agricultural Society Board of Managers at its annual meeting in Bloomington last weekend, according to spokeswoman Lara Hughes.
The board also approved a $40 million operating budget for production of the 2014 State Fair — opening day is just 210 days away — that includes $3.2 million for agriculture, education and creative contests and displays; $1.5 million for free entertainment, and $4.7 million for services including the park-and-ride bus system, fairgrounds sanitation and police and fire protection. The fair is self-sustaining; all of its operation and capital costs are funded by revenues from gate receipts and fees from concession operators.
The West End Market will blend some of the fair’s past with its future. A 150-year-old log cabin, a windmill, the old North St. Paul train depot and the Royal American Shows train cars that were part of Heritage Square will be displayed at or near the market, and a restored steel arch dating from 1933 will greet visitors outside. It also will include an amphitheater and a State Fair history and heritage center with a display area called Heritage Square to keep the name intact. Construction, already begun, is expected to be complete in time for the fair’s opening day.
Al Paulson of Shevlin, Minn., also was elected president of the state Agricultural Society. He is manager of the Clearwater County Fair and county auditor. He has served on the board since 2004.
In other elections, D.J. Leary of Minneapolis was re-elected board vice president. Gordy Toenges of Alden, Sharon Wessel of Hamel and Joe Scapanski of Sauk Rapids were each re-elected to three-year terms on the board. Dan Grunhovd of Gary was elected to fill the final year of Paulson’s unexpired three-year term. Jerry Hammer, who has worked with the fair for more than 40 years, was reappointed its CEO.