Grand Forks Fall Fair cautiously optimistic to find own property

Erin Perkins
By Erin Perkins
February 2nd, 2012

After more than 40 years looking for a permanent home, the City of Grand Forks is now actively looking for a property for the Grand Forks and District Fall Fair.

On Friday Jan. 27 a steering committee made up of members from the Grand Forks City Council, met with members of the Grand Forks and District Fall Fair Society (GFDFFS) to discuss potential properties. It was decided that the committee will do some preliminary exploration and create a list of two or three potential sites for the GFDFFS to consider.

“The fall fair is really struggling,” said Grand Forks mayor Brian Taylor. “We realize how frustrating it is for them to go on from year to year … to set up and have to tear it all down year to year.”

“The fall fair is feeling the crunch and they’re happy we will be getting off our collective backsides and get something done,”said Taylor.

Phyllis Mahoney, GFDFFS vice president, would agree.

“I think people are trying to make progress,” said Mahoney of the committee meeting. “The sooner the better, we’re a little tired of putting things up and tearing things down. We’ve already had three meetings this January to plan for the fall fair (because of the planning involved). We need space.”

A history of homelessness

The fall fair has had a long history of homelessness, which started in the 1960s after the city sold Fireman Park to make way for the mill. The fair, which has been going for nearly 100 years, had permanent exhibition buildings built on that land and lost it all.

When that property was sold, the society had been told by the city that a trust fund would be established to purchase a new property for them, but nothing has ever been done. For about 10 years the fair operated on a city property called Broad Acres and then was moved to the location it presently uses – Dick Bartlett Park and the Curling Rink.

The fair has had it’s ups and downs but last year they had over 30 vendors and up to 1,000 people attending daily. This year vendors have already been calling for a spot, said Les Braden, fall fair president.

But because they don’t have a permenant home, the volunteers spend weeks before and after the fair putting up and tearing down necessary structures like fencing.

Several properties being considered

The fall fair society would ideally like a property close or within city limits for ease of access. They would like a property where they can build permanent structures including exhibition halls, barns and a race track, all of which could be used by other groups during the non fair season, said Braden.

One of the properties being considered is a 40 acre parcel located behind the Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ (USCC) along the river. But the property is on a flood plain, so the USCC doesn’t want permenant structures built there, which is a huge negative for the fall fair.

Another property being considered is what is often referred to as “Property Z”, which is the 23 acres behind Extra Foods on 68th Street in Grand Forks. In 1996 the site was identified as a possible fair site, said Taylor. Now the site has been zoned for single family dwellings with over 200 possible lots.

“We have to consider the impact (a fair site) will have on the local community,” said Taylor of how the committee will select potential properties. “We have to ensure the site will sustain itself without being a draw on taxes.”

Once a site has been decided on, the property would be transfered to the society by the city.

The society is looking for letters of support from local community groups and organizations who may also use the exhibition grounds for their own events.

“We want to get as many letters of support as we can. The more we can get, the better off we are going to be,” said Braden.

The next committee meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 28

To issue a letter of support, contact Les Braden at 250-443-3052 or Phyllis Mahoney at 250-442-0084.

This year’s fall fair will be at a yet to be determined location, but is set for three days — Friday, September 7 to Sunday, September 9.