"Language, as well as the faculty of speech, was the immediate gift of God." ~ Noah Webster

Thursday, September 2, 2010

An Open Letter to the County Fair Board

After attending our county fair this summer, I decided I should write a letter to the Fair Board concerning a certain situation that occurred while my family attended.  With the controversy over allowing alcohol and other changes, the board was encouraging public response.  I emailed my letter to fair management on Monday evening.  Depending on what kind of response I get from them, will determine whether I continue pursuing my point through other venues such as "Letters to the Editor" of the local paper.  Below is the letter:

It is my understanding that the fair board would like feed back from the public about this year’s changes in fair policy. I hope you will pass this on to the appropriate channels.

While I believe the additional charge for preferred seating at the Grandstand events, was beneficial, I think serving alcohol so openly around the fairgrounds was a big mistake.

I have attended the Kootenai County Fair since I was a little girl and it is an annual tradition for my family. It is one of our yearly “splurges” that we plan for each year. This year, I bought tickets for each of the three rodeos. As an additional suggestion, I would prefer to be able to buy the tickets at the fairgrounds rather then having to order them through Tickets West as I had to pay an additional $1.50 per ticket. It would also be much easier to pick up the rodeo tickets at the fairgrounds at the same time I pick up advanced tickets for entry and parking. Still, I believe the $5.00 for preferred seating is understandable and I enjoyed the freedom it gave my family in not having to worry about whether we would have a seat or not.

Though I do not like to be around alcohol and prefer it not be served at all at the fairgrounds, because the fair is so important to my family, I decided we would attend this year to see if there were any problems due to the easier accessibility of the alcohol.

I was unable to attend the Friday night rodeo, even though I had tickets, so I do not know how things went that night. I attended the Saturday night rodeo and was very pleased to see that there was much less beer drinking or problems from it, than I had anticipated. The crowd was the same respectful, enthusiastic crowd that it has always been. I was prepared to write a letter to the editor of our local paper stating how happy I was that the alcohol had not changed much of anything at the fair. The rodeo is one of the few events where we can still publicly pray, salute the flag, sing the National Anthem and give support to our troops at the onset of the event. That is a wonderful thing and one of the main reasons I wanted to continue to gain support for our fair and rodeo.

However, when my son and I attended the rodeo on Sunday, I was very surprised to see a completely different situation. There was more beer drinking going on at this rodeo then I had seen through out any other day or event at the fair. My family had aisle seats, and about half way through the rodeo, a man carrying two beers tripped up the stairs on the way to his seat and spilled his beer all over my 17 year old son. The man said he would go back and get some napkins, but instead he came back with two more beers. He offered one of the beers to my son with an apology for spilling beer all over him. My son told him no thanks, he didn’t drink. The man said ok, apologized again, and went to his seat. Regardless of whether the man drank them or not, we’re already up to 4 beers that this individual had bought. How did those serving the alcohol know whether he drank them himself or not? I also knew now, this would have been a clear opportunity for an underage person to get beer, if my son had been a teen that drinks. It made me aware underage drinking could obviously occur at the fair, and probably did as easy as it was to get alcohol. Because of this particular situation, it was hard not to watch this individual. He came by us two more times with a full beer in his hand. That’s 6 beers. I had been told each patron would only be allowed two beers and it would be strictly enforced. It all sounded good, when someone I knew explained to me how careful the alcohol would be handled. But that is far from what I saw on Sunday. Alcohol was being pushed throughout the grandstands, with little attention given to who was buying it, or how many any one individual already had. I also saw “hard” lemonade sold without checking ID or a wrist band. It was almost like servers were pushing beer because there was much more left over than anyone had expected and they needed to get rid of it. In fact, I believe that is exactly what was happening. I did not see this taking place Saturday evening. So much for all the strict stipulations, and care that the fair board promised would be taken.

Because of what I saw on Sunday, instead of writing a letter to our paper to encourage others to continue to support our county fair, I am writing to you to tell you of my family’s experience on Sunday. I would like to ask the board to no longer allow the beer to be sold so freely through out the fair grounds. It is apparent the extra patrol and caution did not work; even if the board had hoped it would. As diligently as I saw the alcohol being pushed on Sunday, I suspect it was far more important to get rid of an over-stocked supply, rather than stand by the promise to our community that alcohol would be limited and carefully monitored.

I also had many families tell me that they did not appreciate the beer being served so close to the 4-H office and in close proximity to the kids showing their animals. 4-H is an integral part of the fair. I think the board made a mistake in not considering these children. My own observation was that the beer did draw a rougher crowd to this location.

Before the fair this year, I had many, many friends tell me they would be boycotting the fair from now on, because of the free serving of alcohol. Some said they would go to Bonner County instead, and some said they would not bother to go at all. I tried to encourage them to give our fair a chance and told them that that is what I would be doing.

It is simply a fact of life, if things continue as they were this year, in a few years it will be a completely different crowd attending the county fair. Families will be gone and so will 4-H, which already has dwindling numbers.

The entertainment was great this year; the Cowboy Church a wonderful addition; there are many positive things about our county fair. But I am afraid it won’t stay that way for long if you do not change your policy on alcohol back to the way it was in previous years. If the fair board does not decide to go back to the old policy for serving alcohol, then next year I guess my family will be joining our friends at Bonner County.

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