State may privatize fairs

LANSING — The state may eliminate its subsidy of state fairs and solicit donations as a replacement. The fairs — one in Detroit and another in Escanaba — have been perennial money-losers and required $350,000 in state money last year, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm highlighted the fairs in her State of the State address. "[W]hile they are a wonderful tradition, the state fairs are not an essential purpose of government. I'm grateful that others are stepping forward to continue this tradition," she stated.

While the Legislature voted to fund the state fair, the governor vetoed the move. "Government in these times cannot be all things to all people," stated gubernatorial spokesperson Megan Brown to the Michigan Information & Research Service in reference to the fair.

The annual fair concluded in September, but the state fair board is exploring possibilities of staying open without direct state support, according to meeting minutes.

The Mackinac Center has called for the elimination of the state subsidy for the fairs since 1996, when authors Joe Overton and Aaron Steelman argued, "[T]here is no reason to believe that we need the state to run the Michigan State Fair in order for there to be one." Mackinac Center scholars argued in 2003 that selling the fairgrounds may bring the state $59 million, although the real estate market has changed since then.

References: "Money sought to keep State Fair alive," Detroit Free Press, Feb. 3, 2009

"Alice Cooper too pricey for State Fair," The Detroit News, July 15, 2009

"Gov Likely to Veto State Fair $," Michigan Information & Research Service, Oct. 2, 2009

"Fairs to Remember," Michigan Privatization Report, February 2003

"Advancing Civil Society: A State Budget to Strengthen Michigan Culture," Mackinac Center for Public Policy, April 1996