A couple of weeks ago Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm announced in her State of the State address that she is looking at making a number of cuts to help the state regain it’s financial footing. One of the cuts that she is looking at is funding for the Michigan State Fair, a family tradition for 160 years. Although it is obvious that some cutting has to be done I do not think that eliminating one of the few annual state events is the answer. There are a number of things that can be done to make sure the tradition stays alive.
The Michigan State Fair has been struggling over the last few years. With attendance down the fair had to turn to the state for help. Fair General Manager Steve Jenkins has repeatedly stated that he knows that the fair has to be privately funded and has been making changes and adding events to the fair to bring back business. He is open to working with the state to find a way to keep the fair going. This year they are bringing in a new company with new rides and food vendors. There will be a new extreme sports area and a area dedicated to featuring historical and artistic events aimed at showcasing metro Detroit’s ethnic communities. As always the fair will feature nightly concerts, their Miracle of Life birthing exhibit, livestock shows and other state exhibits.
There are a number of summer events in the Detroit area around Labor Day but few have the variety that the State Fair has. The fair brings the country to the inner city. Many kids would never have the chance to pet a sheep or see a horse show. There are all kinds of unique attractions for people of all ages. One of the fair’s most popular attractions is it’s racing pigs show. The State Fair is also one of the least expensive events in the metro Detroit area. Admission to the fairgrounds gives access to all the exhibits and free entry into the concert bandshell area.
Over the last year Michigan has lost a number of high profile events and has had to scale back on a lot. It would be a shame to have to lose more. There is talk about trying to move the Fair elsewhere but I think that would be a mistake. Granholm keeps talking about wanting to bring Detroit back to prominence, adding more jobs and rebuilding. Sending the fair elsewhere would negate all of that.
Anyone who has visited the Fairgrounds knows that the area around it is rundown and dilapidated. While the state has poured money into rebuilding the area near the Detroit Tigers and Lions stadiums they have neglected the rest of the city. If the State would take the time to fix up the area near the fairgrounds and reassure people that the area is safe I think more people would be willing to come out to the fair. With some more promotion the fair could easily see a rise in it’s attendance this year which would help move them towards being independently run.
One of Granholm’s biggest reasons to cut funding for the fair is that she wants to sell the fairground property. There has been talk about building a job site there. This doesn’t make any sense though because the same problems will still exist; the area will still be undesirable. If the area gets sold to build real estate the property will be doing nothing to help the state. At least the fair is family friendly and provides entertainment to a lot of people who can’t afford to go elsewhere.
Hopefully Granholm will listen to the public outcry that followed her address. It is obvious that there are a number of people who enjoy and participate in the tradition. There are a number of local agricultural workers who depend on the fair for their revenue. It’s time for the state and the fair owners to work together to find a way to keep the fair going.