Press release from the Fairgrounds Heritage Preservation Group; April 23, 2012
Concerning HB3208/SB3603, legislation pertaining to the Tennessee State Fair:
Firstly, it was presented with false information. At this time, there are NO plans to end the Tennessee State Fair currently held at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds in Nashville.
The Davidson County Fair Board of Commissioners have never been consulted concerning this legislation. This is a somewhat telling fact that the existing authority for the State Fair was never consulted about it’s current situation or it’s future plans when these bills were being crafted and presented to the legislature.
But in a recent email to this organization Ned Horton, the new chairman of the Davidson County Fair Board of Commissioners said:
“I agree that the fair property is a valuable asset of the people of Davidson County, Tennessee. The Board of Fair Commissioners has successfully held a fair for the benefit of the citizens of Tennessee for over 100 years on the property it was directed to acquire by section 10, Chapter 515, Private Acts, 1923.
The Board of Fair Commissioners is able and willing to continue with it’s responsibility to hold the Tennessee State Fair on the fair property.”
Further, this legislation is being described as a “backup” plan. However, there is no wording to that effect in the legislation itself. To the contrary, the bill reads that it will become effective “immediately.” There is nothing in the bill that makes it contingent on the Davidson County Board of Fair Commissioners failing to produce a State Fair or giving up their responsibility to do so.
In the most recent election in August of 2011, voters of Davidson County passed a referendum amending the Metropolitans Charter to make it more difficult than it previously was for the Metro council to make any changes at the State Fairgrounds or with the State Fair itself. This was in response to a plan proposed by Mayor Dean in 2010 to end the Fair and close down the Fairgrounds (The decision whether to have a fair or not rests with the Fair Board, not with the Mayor).
This proposal by the Mayor resulted in the largest attendance ever at a Metro Council meeting when over 3,000 citizens showed up to protest and oppose the Mayor’s plan. The citizens of Davidson County enjoy being the hosts of the Tennessee State Fair and expressed their desire for it to remain in this past election.
So not only are there no plans at this time to end the Fair, the citizens of Davidson County are intent on retaining both the State Fair and the Fairgrounds and improving their operations.
The only thing scheduled to end is the short-term contract to produce the Fair held by an organization of which Sen. Haynes, senate sponsor of this legislation, and the Commissioner of Agriculture are both members. However, discussions are already under way for an organization to produce the 2013 Fair. The Fair is not ending simply because the contract with their organization is concluding.
Many citizens do not feel that the State could produce the Fair any better today than it could when it gave up the effort 90 years ago. The current business model of the Tennessee State Fair has worked well for all of these years, and while recently there have been some rough roads financially, it has still remained self-sustaining all of this time, and operating on publicly owned property. In its entire existence, it has never cost Davidson County or the State of Tennessee a dime!
There is a new chairman of the Davidson County Board of Fair Commissioners, and two new members. This puts an entirely new face on the five member board, and this new board is committed to improving the Tennessee State Fair, striving for excellence beyond other successful state fairs. They should be given the chance to accomplish this goal.
So on behalf of the majority of voters in Davidson County who passed the August 2011 referendum, I urge you to oppose passage of this legislation and continue to allow the State Fair to operate under the provisions of the existing Act 515 of the legislature.
Please consider the citizens of Davidson County and the desires they have expressed and work to insure that this legislation does not pass.
Fairgrounds Heritage Preservation Group, Inc.