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Published July 11, 2011, 02:55 PM

Officials Say Canceling ND Fair Sad But Necessary

Canceling the North Dakota State Fair for the first time in its nearly half century of official existence is hard on an emotional and financial level, its manager said.

By: Associated Press,

MINOT, N.D. (AP) — Canceling the North Dakota State Fair for the first time in its nearly half century of official existence is hard on an emotional and financial level, its manager said.

Officials decided over the weekend to cancel this year's fair in Minot because of Souris River flooding. Manager Renae Korslien said officials did everything they could to make the fair a reality but eventually had no choice but to call off the event scheduled later this month.

"We tried hard, but the timeline got too short," she told the Minot Daily News.

"It's a disaster," she said, describing the cancellation as "tough on the heart and tough on the checkbook."

Officials earlier had decided to hold a scaled-down fair with no parade and no commercial exhibits. They called off the entire event when a revised forecast by the National Weather Service showed the river that flooded the fairgrounds and many other areas of Minot will recede slower than expected due to recent rains.

"I feel disappointment in that we're not going to have a fair but also a little relief for the pressure it would have put on the community," Mayor Curt Zimbelman told The Forum. "It's very disappointing, but I think the people of North Dakota will understand."

Vern Stevick, a former fair manager, told The Forum he was "flabbergasted" by the news.

"Holy smokes. That's a first," he said. "I don't see how they can not have it. It's the biggest thing in North Dakota."

The fair has been held every year since 1965, when the Legislature decided that Minot would host the official state fair. It was held in 1969, the record flood year in Minot until this year. Jerry Iverson, who managed the fair for two decades starting in the mid-1970s, told The Forum that there was less water in 1969 and the flooding happened much earlier.

Iverson said moving the fair isn't an option.

"There are 44,000 exhibits, of cows, pigs, ducks, and jars of pickles and quilts," he said. "People say, 'where could you move it?' But you can't move the State Fair."

Last year's nine-day fair set an attendance record of nearly 309,000 people. This year's fair also was poised to set records. First-day sales of tickets for the Kid Rock concert and a pass for grandstand shows set records, according to the Forum.

Korslien told the Minot Daily News that the $75 million State Fair Center and the newly built $15 million grandstand remain dry because of dikes built to protect them.

"It was a great battle and we won that battle," she said. "We would just have liked to win them all."

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