OUR VIEW: State Fair provides a lessonThe fair is a century old, but it almost died a few years back when some misguided souls in the state Legislature wondered if it was time for the fair to lock its gates forever.
We cannot let the opening of the South Dakota State Fair come without a little bit of excitement, coupled with a recent history lesson.
The fair is a century old, but it almost died a few years back when some misguided souls in the state Legislature wondered if it was time for the fair to lock its gates forever — or at least not return to its traditional site in Huron, where it has been held since 1905.
You see, for some time now, the fair has run in the red. Lawmakers with an eye for accounting see those red marks on the fair’s general ledger and of course wonder why such a fiscal woe should be allowed to continue.
In hindsight, we can’t blame them. Lawmakers who allow fiscal irresponsibility generally don’t last.
All of this controversy was brewing back around 2006, and the issue heightened when it was decided to use annual infusions of tax dollars to strengthen the fair’s financial footing. It started with about $900,000; last year, it was about $268,000.
We feel the financial improvement of the fair is the result of stronger state oversight and implementation of better ideas. Attendance has risen from 133,000 in 2006 to about 200,000 in recent years.
Was it a good idea to infuse state money to save the State Fair? It certainly was, and we feel the fair’s constant improvement over the past half-decade is directly related to the state’s decision to step in.
The fair is vital to the greater Huron-Mitchell area and the many merchants and businesses therein. It also overflows with South Dakota heritage and celebrates our agrarian roots.
Thank you, members of the Legislature, for saving the State Fair and helping it improve its financial footing. We hope that in the future, the fair will run entirely on its own, and a laser-like focus should be placed on that goal.
But even if it doesn’t, we consider the fair, which opens Thursday and continues through Monday, a good place to spend some state money.