The Ramsey County Fair is the last summer to pull the plug before 2022.
Dating back to 1913, the fair is run by an agricultural commission that has little to do with the Ramsey County government, except that the fair itself takes place on county property, adjacent to the county’s Goodrich Golf Course in Maplewood.
In recent months, show organizers have argued with provincial officials over proposed indemnity contract language that would have held the fair liable for unfortunate incidents on the property, as well as other aspects of a comprehensive contract that the board of directors was reluctant to sign. One of the amenities is that organizers will have 24 hours after the end of the four-day fair, which is usually held in mid-July, to clear the grounds, with limited on-site storage at provincial facilities.
A spokesman for the county manager’s office said on Tuesday those issues had been largely resolved and county officials were ready to sign an amended contract proposal.
“We had been actively discussing the Fair Board’s concerns about the usage agreement and everyone was on track to have a signed agreement in time for the fair to run as planned in 2022,” said Allison Winters, interim communications director, in an email. email .
Yet other questions also loomed, such as security costs, which have risen in recent years for outdoor events.
At its June 1 meeting, the board of directors of the Ramsey County Agricultural Society deliberated with its fair council and decided to cancel the event, which was scheduled for July 14 to July 17.
“The consensus was that there were still too many open regulations, legal requirements and unknown financial challenges that could not be resolved to provide a quality, enjoyable and safe Fair experience for the residents of Ramsey County,” said Ron Suiter, president of the Ramsey County Fair Board, in a letter this week to county officials.
Suiter said the exchange board will begin planning for a “bigger and better exchange” in 2023.
Calls to members of the fair board did not return on Tuesday.
LONG EVENTS CANCELLED
The long-standing funfair — which charges no admission fee and offers free fireworks, sponsored by the City of Maplewood — isn’t the only summer event to be repeatedly interrupted during the pandemic. In St. Paul, the Little Mekong Night Market, the Cinco de Mayo parade on the West Side, Grand Old Day, Highland Fest, the Festival of Nations, the Rice Park Parade and the Dragon Festival on Lake Phalen have been suspended for another summer.
Several organizers have cited the increased security requirements of the St. Paul Police Department, as well as the fundraising challenges and shortened planning time. The Omicron and Delta waves from last winter’s pandemic delayed the organization of events for weeks.
At a County Board workshop on April 19, several County Board members showed little enthusiasm for the effort to keep the Ramsey County Fair afloat. Jean Krueger, director of real estate management for Ramsey County, expressed concern at the time that the show’s fireworks and other show activities were blocking golf at the county’s Goodrich Golf Course for one weekend a year.
While Ramsey County doesn’t directly subsidize the fair with cash, it does absorb some $25,000 in startup, cleanup and utility costs such as mowing, garbage, recycling and electricity, she said. The funfair has been using the county’s grounds since the 1950s under a handshake agreement, with little or nothing laid down in writing.
“You go back to 1954, and this process was set up by — I wish I had a better term — a good old boys’ club,” said Ramsey County Commissioner Jim McDonough at the time. “This relationship is so murky with our agrarian society, we’ve actually taken on a lot of their responsibilities.”