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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Can You Survive a 40% Budget Cut? State Fair Can

Does no one in state government know how to put on his budget war face?

So imagine you're in charge of the South Dakota State Fair. You've just been told the governor wants to axe all of the Fair's state support, 40% of your budget. Just a few months ago, you were making the case that your event requires permanent legislative funding. As the head of this specific program, what's your proper response?

Fight like hell, right? Tell the Legislature the Fair will die without state support, right?

Evidently not if you are Agriculture Secretary Bill Even. Instead of staking out a negotiating position from which he might be able to win back some portion of the $800K the governor wanted to give him last December, Secretary Even has said the Fair will go on, even without a penny of state subsidy.

Bill Even just acted like a novice debate team that hears the Affirmative plan, takes the podium, and says, "O.K. We've got nothing. Do the plan, nothing bad will happen."

Life is not a debate round, but I see nothing wrong with the man in charge of the State Fair taking a bit more aggressive role in being the chief defender of his program. Even though I'd vote to cut the subsidy (remember: other state fairs get along fine without taxpayer support), I still want to hear someone make the opposing case so everyone can weigh the pros and cons in full and make an informed decision.

But if even Secretary Even agrees that the subsidy isn't necessary, well, he's saved us some work. The state just saved $800K. Next issue.

Update: Oops! Looks like not everyone in the Ag Department is on the same page. Deputy Ag Secretary George Williams tells that Sioux Falls paper, "If the full amount of the funding that was proposed was removed from the fair, the operational dollars would not be there to host a fair - at least similar to anything we've seen.... It would be pretty difficult to host any kind of fair." And don't get Ron Volesky started!


  1. I wonder what a smaller version of the state fair would would like and how it would compete with the Sioux Empire fair and Parker fair - would a smaller state fair in Huron still be able to draw people from other parts of the state ?

  2. Let's bring some sunshine from behind this cloud. The South Dakota State Fair should be an event that involves competition among SD cities. Moving the fair to various locations across the State each year would provide an opportunity to showcase our largest cities and bring rural values to each hosting area. Cities could bid for the right to host the State Fair, whether it is in conjunction with their own fair like the Brown County Fair or a separate event held at their fairgrounds. No state subsidy needed. The only downside is what today's Argus is reporting. Under the 100-plus year old agreement for the South Dakota State Fair property, if the fair is not held, even for one year, the land reverts back to the railroad. Oh well, place an industry on the property adjacent to the rail lines and increase employment opportunities in Huron for decades.

  3. I'm quite sure I remember reading years ago how the original agreement for the funding was a temporary arrangement so they could transition to their own income sources, but each year continued with additional extensions. If this thing can't make it, it's time to cut the cord.

  4. We go to the state fair almost every year. My kids are involved in 4-H. They have projects that go to the fair for judging.

    If you believe in the fair, get on that phone and call you legislator.

  5. I watch the 4H grounds go unused all year long except a couple weeks or so out of the year. There has to be somewhere else they can meet much more efficiently. It should be developed for something like affordable housing for seniors. In my opinion, the community should be getting more out of that property.

  6. Why couldn't the 4H programs be coordinated with Prairie Village. It seems like that would be the right venue for Prairie Village to start drawing in the next generation of caretakers. Those involved with Prairie Village are aging and there isn't enough new blood. There's so much potential out there.

  7. Prairie Village is a jewel for Madison, but the city evidently doesn't care much about it. It should be promoted. It has several events over the summer, but IMO it has the potential to be much more than it is.

    IT wouldn't make much sense to move the state fair around each year from town to town. It takes a huge investment in buildings and space, and changing the site every year wouldn't be very cost efficient or bring in more people.

    For those who don't go to the fair it isn't important. What if we apply that same philosophy to the Washington Pavilion, Great Bear, the Journey Museum, etc?


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