Michigan State Fair

Four years ago, then-Governor Jennifer Granholm abruptly canceled one of our state’s oldest traditions, the Michigan State Fair, which had been held in Detroit for well over a century.

The fair had dwindling attendance in recent years, though it still attracted several hundred thousand people annually. True, it was also losing a few hundred thousand dollars a year.

However, that’s not all that much in a $50 billion state budget. The normally tight-fisted legislature disagreed with the governor, and voted to keep the fair going.

But Granholm vetoed that, saying the state could no longer afford it. She also said that she thought the land might be better used for something else, which made me think she had a plan to sell it to a developer with political connections.

But nothing happened for the last year of her term, or for more than a year of the Snyder administration. The fairgrounds just sat empty. The famous big stove caught on fire and was destroyed.

After a two-year hiatus, organizers say Michigan's state fair is back - but it will have a new name and location.

Blair Bowman  runs the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi.   That's the expo center where the "Great Lakes State Fair" will be.  It opens to the public on Friday.

The fair will be under a roof instead of in the open. But it will have the same livestock and agricultural exhibits, pie-eating contests, and the like.

Bob Vigiletti / Michigan Radio Picture Project

This year, a group is hosting a new fair in Michigan they're calling the "resurgence" of the Michigan State Fair.

Dubbed the Great Lakes State Fair, the four day festival will be held at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi over Labor Day weekend from Aug. 31 to Sept. 3.

The state of Michigan used to have two state fairs, one in each peninsula.

The Upper Peninsula State Fair continues to run in Escanaba, where it was established in 1927.

Three years ago, then-Governor Jennifer Granholm killed the Michigan State Fair, then the longest-running event of its kind in the nation. The fair, which was how the agriculture industry showed itself off to the rest of the state, had been running continuously since Zachary Taylor was president. For awhile, it moved around.

Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Hoekstra responds to "birther" questions at Mackinac Policy Conference

Republican Senate hopeful Pete Hoekstra responded to a question from MPRN's Rick Pluta about his publicly stated support for a "3-person" federal office that reviews whether presidential candidates meet minimum requirements to run for office. From the Detroit Free Press:

...host Rick Pluta of Michigan Public Radio put [Hoekstra] on the defensive over a controversy that arose Wednesday after remarks Hoekstra made about whether Obama was born in the U.S. and qualified to hold the office of president.

Hoekstra responded saying:

...it was "an absolutely ludicrous discussion to be having" after Obama has been president for four years. "They raised the issue; I didn't," he said of the tea party group. "They thought it was important. I don't."

With most state lawmakers gone, business is the focus on Mackinac Island

Lawmakers certainly discuss business as well, but Michigan Radio's Zoe Clark and MPRN's Rick Pluta talked about a different vibe on Mackinac Island on their It's Just Politics episode this week.

State lawmakers typically attend the Mackinac Policy Conference, but with budget negotiations going on in Lansing, most are absent.

"State lawmakers are not here, and because state lawmakers are not here, lobbyists are not here," said Pluta. "And if lobbyists are not here that means there's not this cadre of people who are buying drinks and meals...and hosting hospitality suites, so it's a little quieter, it's a little tamer."

Clark points out that some of the people she spoke with don't miss the lawmakers. Pluta says "business people are gettting together and talking business" at this conference.

A new State Fair in Michigan?

There's no state funding involved in this fair, so some are saying it can't really be called a "State Fair." Organizers of the "Great Lakes State Fair" say they're not trying to duplicate the old Michigan State Fair, but they are attempting to bring in similar events. From the Detroit Free Press:

The new event will feature many of the elements found at typical fairs: a midway, carnival rides, livestock and produce exhibits, a beer tent and entertainment.

The event will take place from August 31 through September 3 at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi.

Virtually nobody paid much attention, but the last faint hope that the Michigan State Fair would somehow be revived ended this week.

Two days ago, Governor Rick Snyder signed bills authorizing the state to give up ownership of the Michigan State Fairgrounds in Detroit. Those 163 acres would be returned, the governor’s office said, “to productive uses.“

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Governor Snyder has signed bills that pave the way for transforming the former Michigan state fairgrounds at 8 Mile and Woodward in Detroit.

The land has largely sat idle since former Governor Jennifer Granholm cut state funding for the fair in 2009. Until then, it was one of the nation's longest-running state fairs.

Michigan’s state fair had a very long run. It was first held in 1849, making it the second oldest state fair in the country.

But the event lost money most years after 1970.

The 2008 fair ended with a deficit of $362,000.00.

Attendance dropped 39% over the final eight years of the Fair’s existence.

In 2009, Governor Jennifer Granholm ended all state funding for the fair, and it closed.

On Monday, Governor Snyder will sign bills which will authorize the state to sell the property.

The 157 acre property is located just east of Woodward Avenue, close to 8 Mile.

Any money made from the sale of the Fairgrounds will be added to the state’s general fund.