A Memphis group has made a substantial offer that could mean two state fairs in Tennessee.
A state commission created by the legislature has already contracted with a nonprofit to put on the official Tennessee State Fair this year, but now a professional fair operator out of Memphis is offering to pay $500,000 to the Metro Fair Board to put on the annual fair at the state fairgrounds.
For the last two years, a nonprofit association has put on the event under a contract with the fair board, but now Universal Fairs of Memphis has sent a letter to the fair board, offering nearly 10 times as much for the privilege of running the fair.
"It would be half-a-million for this year, for a fair in September, and a quarter-of-a-million dollars a year for two years after that," said Melissa Bast, with Universal Fairs.
Universal Fairs puts on the Delta Fair in Memphis and other big fairs in other states.
Two years ago, the legislature created the new state fair commission, which has already contracted with the same nonprofit association that ran the fair last year.
Now, two different government entities are in charge and two different organizations both want to use the same site at the same time.
"I think it complicates things a great deal. It's two layers of government that conflict," Bast said.
A group called Save the Fairgrounds says this should be a no-brainer. They want the Metro Fair Board to take the $500,000 offer.
"I think this is great," said Shane Smiley, with Save the Fairgrounds.
The advocates say, that way, the fairgrounds won't have to ask for a taxpayer subsidy, which it is expecting to do this year for the first time in its 100-year existence.
"This half-million dollar deal should eliminate that," Smiley said.
The nonprofit association that ran the fair last year did not want to comment for this story, except to say they are continuing to negotiate a deal with the Metro Fair Board in good faith.
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