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Commissioners approve reopening of fairgrounds on case-by-case basis

The Freeborn County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday voted to reopen the Freeborn County Fairgrounds on a case-by-case basis for organizations and events. 

Third District Commissioner John Forman said he has heard a lot of comments from people who want the fairgrounds open, and he would like to show support for the organizations that use the fairgrounds, while still adhering to the state and local rules for COVID-19 safety. 

The fairgrounds have been closed to public events during the duration of the pandemic, with exception of an outdoor 4-H livestock show last summer, vaccination clinics and food pantry distribution.

The vote follows the Freeborn County Agricultural Society’s announcement last week that this year’s fair would be canceled out of concerns for safety of the public and the financial stability of the fair because of limitations in place on the number of attendees at indoor and outdoor entertainment events. 

Freeborn County Administrator Tom Jensen emphasized that the Agricultural Society is the governing body of the fair, while the county is the governing body of the fairgrounds and pays for insurance and upkeep on the property. 

Advocates for Freeborn County 4-H’ers attended both the Tuesday meeting and the last board meeting in April, asking for support of an in-person showcase open to spectators in August at the fairgrounds. 

Matt Benda, a 4-H parent from the Twin Lakes 4-H Club, said the fair board gave the green light for 4-H to start planning their event. 

Fifth District Commissioner Ted Herman asked if the resolution could give the opportunity to the Sunset Saddle Club to have its events at the fairgrounds, and Jensen said the county would consider it case by case. 

First District Commissioner Brad Edwin cited an article at the end of last week in which Gov. Tim Walz stated he felt the Minnesota State Fair would move forward near normal this year. With this in mind, Edwin said he would like to discuss at the board’s next workshop the possibility of moving the county’s fair back and providing a small scale event with local entertainment, food stands and a carnival. 

In other action, the board: 

  • Reappointed Phil Wacholz as the Freeborn County highway engineer for a four-year term.
  • Aligned the family child care licensing fees with amounts allowed by state statute. 
  • Approved non-homestead tax abatement for Tracy and Sue Skaar.
  • Reappointed Steven Thompson as the Freeborn County surveyor for a four-year term.
  • Placed Alex Blaschko on regular full-time status as a detention deputy in the Freeborn County jail.
  • Accepted a $500 donation to the Sheriff’s Office.