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Your letters: Setting the record straight on the fairgrounds

Over the past months, there have been numerous meetings, articles and discussions regarding the rebuilding of the Wadena County Fairgrounds. Some of the discussion and thoughts that I have encountered have been fairly accurate while others fall short of reality.

First and foremost, the Wadena County Ag Society (fair board) has never asked for any money from the county other than existing insurance money on hand as a result of last year's tornado. In that, the fair lost eight buildings and numerous other structures that were utilized for the fair and other on-ground activities. We have not asked for money from the ordinary county coffers, and that fact is never pointed out in any newspaper articles. We have only asked to have access to insurance money that is on hand -- no more, sometimes less.

With the funding, we could have built several upgraded buildings, improved infrastructure (bathrooms), added a stage for use by any number of entities, and the list goes on. Instead, the fair board has faced a continual battle to achieve anything. We did build a new building to house horses during events, as well as the WDC school buses. That is a partnership that is very valuable to our board and works well. But we struggle with other entities that have designs for the grounds and available money, whether it is insurance and/or FEMA dollars. The hope is to build a million dollar event center for weddings, etc. The notion of building an event center with funds from the destruction of the fairgrounds has created such chaos within the groups involved, that many fair board members want to walk away.

What once was an altruistic group are now questioning their desire to move forward under such circumstances. The volunteers of the Ag Society fulfill our board duties for nothing other than the idea of producing a great fair for everyone to enjoy, not to enhance one local group, city or business. The county fair is for anyone and everyone regardless of how much money they have in their wallet or purse. An event center cannot boast of that fact.

The fairboard is in place to manage all facets of the county fair and other events that are held to fund a fair. Our intentions were to rebuild what was lost, make things better, and grow the potential of the fair and only use insurance funds from last year's storm. Our plans do not include an event center that has to be rented for individual events but to rebuild a fair that is free for all of the area residents to enjoy, just like the past 118 plus years.

Ray Cochran

Wadena County Ag Society Director