Gov. Granholm observed in her State of the State Address that "while they are a wonderful tradition, the state fairs are not an essential purpose of government." She proposed ending the state's subsidies to the two state fairs, one in Detroit and one in Escanaba, yielding $7.98 million in savings for the state budget.
Ending this subsidy would place responsibility for financing state fairs back on the individuals and communities who organize and benefit from them. This step is appropriate. As Michael D. LaFaive, the Mackinac Center's fiscal policy director, wrote in 1996, "[S]ponsoring fairs is not a proper function of government in a civil society." Rather, it is a proper function of civil society itself. Government subsidies can weaken the ties that bind a community in these common activities, and they deplete needed government revenues.
A 2003 article by LaFaive observed that fairs would not end if the state stopped subsidizing them. Seven Michigan counties and another 80 communities and associations run their own fairs. In Barry County, the privately owned and operated Prairieville Farms has held the "Prairieville Old Fashioned Farm Days" since the late 1970s and featured such country-fair events as animal shows and races, craft shows, dancing, live country music and a tractor-pull competition.[*]
Indeed, the logical step at this point would be to sell the state fair property in Detroit. The 2004 Mackinac Center budget study, "Recommendations to Strengthen Civil Society and Balance Michigan's State Budget - 2nd Edition," presented evidence that a sale could yield more than $50 million, although this number may have fallen with the recent decline in real estate prices.
[*] Michael D. LaFaive, "Privatizing State Fairs Could Save Michigan Nearly $60 Million," Mackinac Center for Public Policy, http://www.mackinac.org/ 5853 (accessed May 28, 2009). The Prairieville Old Fashioned Farm Days is now in its 31st year; see "The Prairieville Old Fashioned Farm Days Website!" Prairieville Farms, http://prairievilleoldfashionedfarmdays. groups.homepagenow.com/ (accessed May 28, 2009).