It Can Be Done
On Oct. 18, the Joint Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resource Interim Committee met in Douglas to discuss their agenda. Included on the agenda was the topic of finalizing a working draft into a sponsored bill to take to the 2018 legislature dealing with management of the State Fair.
As we have written in this column before, and a lot of you know, the State Legislature cut Wyoming State Fair’s budget by over $400,000 last winter. Now, the Wyoming Department of Agriculture and those involved in the State Fair – both management and participants – are trying to figure out what the fair will look like in the future. The Joint Ag Committee needed to finalize the working draft as a proposed bill but was unable to accomplish that. Right now, the co-chairmen are working more on the draft and will send it to the Wyoming Legislative Services Office to be finalized. Then, the committee will vote by e-mail to approve or disapprove sending it on.
The purpose of the bill as written was, “An Act relating to agriculture; authorizing management of the maintenance of State Fair facilities; amending provisions for the oversite and general supervision of the Ftate Fair and fairgrounds; reconstituting the State Fair Advisory Board as the State Fair Board; specifying the composition of the State Fair Board; specifying the appointment of board members; and providing for an effective date.”
The big issue, as I see it, is not putting on the annual State Fair. Managing and keeping the fairgrounds busy during the off-season, that is, the other 50 weeks.
During the 17 listening sessions held throughout the state, around 300 people attended, and in reading the results of a survey sheet that was handed out, two-thirds thought our state fair was a high priority. Well, of course, people showed up for the session because they thought State Fair was important. Rather, it’s the rest of the state and many of our state legislatures who don’t know what goes on during State Fair, the importance of the fair to 4-H and FFA or why some people have been coming to State Fair all their lives.
On the negative side, some of the people who attended listening sessions thought the annual event is too expensive, not worth the expense and doesn’t have enough big entertainment, like concerts – all the usual complaints. I’ve found out that, when you ask someone what their thoughts are on State Fair, the responses are as broad as if I asked how to raise cows or break a horse.
Now, the committee will have to shape up the working draft of their bill, and it could be difficult. At the hearing, they heard from the dedicated advisory board, 4-H, FFA, Board of Ag, the State Fair Director, local legislators and, the best speaker, past State Sen. Jim Anderson, who used to live around Glenrock and always supported State Fair.
Sen. Anderson has since moved to Wisconsin to be closer to family, but he traveled 1,100 miles to speak, and speak well he did. He spoke on history, culture, value to youth, tradition, our ag roots and Wyoming’s heritage. He cautioned the committee about raising fees too high or making too many cuts. He advocated for involvement of outside interests to serve on a board appointed by the Governor to develop strategies for drawing more groups to the fairgrounds in the off-season.
Sen. Anderson, we miss you and your wisdom. Thank you for your continued dedication to Wyoming agriculture.