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Should the fairgrounds be sold? Fairgoers weigh in on property issue

Fair goers had mixed opinions about the idea of the fairgrounds being sold. Michael Denny/Wadena Pioneer Journal1 / 2
Emilee White enjoys the fairgrounds as they are now but stated a new hospital near the highway would be a good addition to the community. Michael Denny/Wadena Pioneer Journal2 / 2

The past few months have been rife with rumors about the fairgrounds being sold. This possibility had many Wadena citizens concerned about the future of the longstanding tradition as well as the cost associated with moving the fair.

Last April, the fairboard and administrators from Tri-County Health Care held a public meeting to quell the rumors and to bring public perspective into the conversation. Tri-County officials explained that current facilities are not adequate for serving the population of Wadena and the surrounding county. After much deliberation and research they arrived at the fairgrounds as a site of potential expansion. Citizens attending this meeting were given a chance to speak about the somewhat controversial topic. Some were in favor of a new hospital and the health related benefits it would bring to the community. Others were not so enthused with the idea of losing the location of the historic fair. 

The 2019 fair served as an opportunity to gauge public opinion in a follow-up to that April meeting. Kent Solberg was enjoying the fair festivities. He and his wife were chosen as the Minnesota Farm Family of the Year. Solberg calls Wadena County home and has been farming for decades. When asked about the possible move for the fairgrounds, he responded with, "sounds like an expensive proposition." Solberg was well aware that Tri-County Health Care was struggling to maintain growth in their current location but couldn't let go of the expense of such a huge project. He suggested that perhaps they could explore other options for a new facility. "It just seems expensive all around," commented Solberg. One gentleman busied himself with show cows, hastily cleaning them with a hose outside the arena. He had four show cows entered this year. During a brief discussion about the fairgrounds being sold, he said, "I like it where it's at." He later went on to say that if it's better for all parties involved, then move it.

Walking the fairgrounds was Emilee White, a seasoned fairgoer with a passion for animals. When discussing a possible move for the fairgrounds, she said, "I don't really have an opinion on it. It would be good if they could get some new barns and facilities for the livestock." White commented that she really enjoys the fairgrounds as they exist now but an upgrade would be nice. After hearing about Tri-County potentially buying the space for a new facility she did show some support. "I think it's a really good idea to move the hospital out toward the highway, easier access, and more room for them to expand," said White. Selling the fairgrounds is a point of contention within the community. Months after word first broke, people are still divided. Some believe it would be an expensive venture that would put a strain on a time honored tradition, others welcome change and the expansion of Tri-County Health Care.

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