Forthcoming decision on demolition derby holds fate of fall fair

There's a push for more than just a few floats, like the one in the 1997 Grand Forks Fall Fair, at the 2017 edition. —  Photo, Grand Forks Fall Fair
There's a push for more than just a few floats, like the one in the 1997 Grand Forks Fall Fair, at the 2017 edition. — Photo, Grand Forks Fall Fair

A request to add a demolition derby to the Grand Forks and District Fall Fair this year is expected to be the lynchpin on whether the ailing event continues or not.

Declining attendance has put the fall fair on the ropes as the organizers have searched for ways to prop the event up, and keep it strong and intact for future years.

In an attempt to add what is expected to be a hallmark event that effectively doubles or triples attendance, the organizers requested Grand Forks city council support recently to add a demolition derby to its fall fair roster.

“Without the support of the city we would not be able to hold this crowd pleasing event,” said fair representative Danna O’Donnell. “(We want) to be able to hold a successful fair that brings the community together and educates people about agriculture.”

The fair committee has joined together with a group that wants to hold a demolition derby, and both believed the combination — along with a change from August to the first weekend in September — could triple admissions to the fair, said O’Donnell.

Projects like the fair bring people together, said O’Donnell, and it brings people into the city to stimulate the economy. The derby would be planned for a Saturday, but the weekend fair itself would still contain a parade, arts and crafts shows, dog shows, agricultural displays and showcases of local talent.

Coun. Julia Butler liked the proposal for the combination. However, she asked if the derby event would be held next to the Silver Kettle senior’s home.

“Wouldn’t there be an issue with the grounds being next to the Silver Kettle?” she asked.

O’Donnell said the fair was still waiting for more information in order to give a presentation to the residents of the home about the demolition derby. She also said perimeter fences would be put in place for the derby.

“Is any consideration given to the environmental impact (of the event)?” asked Mayor Frank Konrad.

A company will be hired to help deal with any potential spills, said O’Donnell.

Even if the event took place on city lands, city chief administrative officer Doug Allin said the city might want to consider the insurance implications of such an event.

“We might want to consider if the fall fair has enough insurance to cover all situations,” he said.

Coun. Chris Hammett applauded the initiative to help increase revenue and attendance for the fall fair.

“I think this is a do or die situation for the fall fair,” she said. “I think we would need to pass this now for the survival of our fall fair. They need the gate admission.”

Konrad halted any progress toward a vote, however. He said insurance and all contingencies needed to be put together before a motion could be made and a vote was called.

“At this point we will stay where we are,” said Konrad.

Allin said the fair needed to be in contact with the city manager of operations, Dave Reid, with the particulars of the event, and then a report would be brought back to council for consideration.

O’Donnell agreed but noted the fair request needed to be approved by the city by April.

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