State Fair Should Come Clean On What They Want Historical Society Land For


A battle over land on the North Dakota State Fair Grounds currently being used by the Ward County Historical Society has boiled over into the Legislature. There is litigation pending between the State Fair Association and the Historical Society in district court, but there’s also a bill before the Legislature – introduced by Senator Oley Larson and Rep. Dan Ruby, both Republicans of Minot – which would require the Fair Association to allow the Ward County Historical Society to continue using the land.

I’ve written about the matter previously, if you need to catch up.

The Legislature held a committee hearing on the bill last week, and something caught my attention. The State Fair Association is refusing to say what they want the land for. According to this report in the Minot Daily News, the Fair Association says they don’t want to commit to any particular use of the land. They just want the Historical Society gone:

“We need more room to expand,” said Korslien. “Two and a half acres may not sound (like) much to you, but in the heart of our fairgrounds it would certainly help us expand more and make things new and reinvent it over and over and over.”

Korslien said she does not want to paint the State Fair into a corner about what it would do with the disputed land, but she thinks it could potentially be used as space for an additional free stage or a place for 4-H exhibitors to camp during the State Fair.

That seems extraordinary to me.

We are talking about state land. Public land. I think most of us can agree that the use of such land for the display of a group of historical buildings (it really is a fascinating display if my endorsement is worth anything). If the State Fair wants to evict the historical society, shouldn’t the public get to know why? Aren’t we owed something more than vague allusions to expansion?

Are they going to put up more livestock barns? More space for carney games? The Historical Society has existed in its present location for decades. To change that, shouldn’t there be a specific justification?

If the State Fair has a better use for the land they should prove it. Otherwise their campaign to push the Ward County Historical Society out seems capricious bordering on cruel.