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Democrats claim fair board is unfair
Democrats claim fair board is unfair
By JOSEPH KOZIOL JR.
Geauga County Democratic Party chairwoman Janet Carson said last week that the Geauga County Fair Board is playing politics. Fair officials said it's not politics but policy that is dictating their actions.
The issue went to a head last week as the two sides met to discuss the size and placement of the Democratic Party tent at the Great Geauga County Fair.
"I believe that it is a political decision," Mrs. Carson said.
In a June 27 letter to the Geauga County Agricultural Society's board of directors, Mrs. Carson outlined her reasons why she holds that belief. "The public already perceives that the board favors Republicans over the Democrats by the very size and placement of our respective tents," she wrote. "The Republicans have a substantially larger tent in the middle of the main midway for the fairgrounds. We are on a side street where more space is obviously available."
Mrs. Carson said the Democrats have a 20-by-30-foot tent, compared to the Republicans' 30-by-30-foot tent.
But Howard Bates, president of the fair board, said officials have bent over backwards to help the Democrats, providing space when others were first in line and forgiving late payments for the space. "I do take exception that we haven't cooperated with the Democratic Party," he said. "We've been more than fair."
As a compromise last week, the fair board agreed to provide a 20-by-40-foot space for the Democratic tent this year.
While Mrs. Carson said she would accept the compromise, her fight will continue. She said she plans to seek signatures for petitions at the fair, calling for a larger tent and a midway location.
Mrs. Carson told the 21-member fair board last week that she first made her request in January for the larger and relocated space.
She and her husband, Terry, have been members of the agricultural society, and their children participated in 4-H programs. She said she commended the staff and volunteers that operate the fair and that the Democratic Party members support the fair.
She said the larger tent is needed to be able to show educational, nonpartisan videos on the judicial branch, global warming and voter rights and registration.
Mrs. Carson said there is an intense interest by the public in politics this year, particularly at the national level, which makes a larger space even more important.
With one of the four tenets of the 4-H program being citizenship, the fair board should take interest in helping promote that ideal, Mrs. Carson said. "We need to have them better informed, so they can become better leaders."
Mr. Bates said the fair has many requests for space for newcomers or larger spaces for existing stands and tents. A waiting list is used to decide who is next in line for the requests, he said.
Paul Harris, a fair director, said all concessions are charged the same rate, $27 per linear foot of frontage. The fair does not get a cut from concession sales, meaning all are on equal footing in their requests, he said.
Mr. Bates said the Democrats held a space at the fairgrounds from 1982 through 1988. In 1989, they declined to take a space at the fair, and their space was given to the next in line, he said, but the Democrats returned in 1990, again asking for space.
Rather than put the Democrats at the end of the line, Mr. Bates said, fair officials found a 16-by-16-foot space. "It was not a spot we had to give," he said. "To work with you, we gave you a spot."
In 1991, he said, the Democratic Party did not, as the rules called for, ask to be given a space until the deadline had passed. Mr. Bates said the Democrats did not request a space until Aug. 14. In 1992, the space was enlarged for a 20-by-30-foot tent. He said the Democratic Party also failed to meet the deadline for payment of the deposit in 1996.
Mrs. Carson said she was not part of the past problems and was asking for consideration of this request.
Mr. Carson said Geauga County has long been dominated by Republicans, but, in recent years, his party has been gaining ground. He said more Democrats voted in the last primary than Republicans.
Statistics from the Geauga County Board of Elections show that 19,512 Democrats voted in the last primary, while 10,485 voted the Republican ticket. Registration, as of July 2008, showed 19,487 registered Democrats, 10,472 Republicans, 826 nonpartisan registrants and 34,275 undeclared or independents in the county.
Mr. Bates said he was unwilling to discuss the politics. "We're done," he said. "We're done discussing this."
Fred Schneider, a 4-H adviser for more than 40 years, said the Democrats are not the only ones who have been trying to get larger space. He said he has been besieged by parents and children who have continually asked for larger spaces. He said the Democratic Party should be more understanding and work with the fair board.
"Why can't people be satisfied with a given offer?" Mr. Schneider said. "I have the same problem with the kids and their parents. These people are trying hard," he said of fair officials. "Why don't you work with these people?"
Mrs. Carson said a second issue is the noise generated from the nearby Junior Fair stand, which features live musical bands. Heavy-metal bands that are featured are particularly noisy, making even conversation impossible, she said. "We can't hear ourselves think, it's so loud." She said she had to close the tent early last year because of the noise.
Mr. Bates said he might agree with Mrs. Carson on the volume issue, but his 19-year-old son might not. He said the fair decided a few years ago to provide a mix of music, rather than just country, and it has been well received.
Mr. Bates said, while the music will not be changed, the fair board would entertain a request next year to move the tent, if space is available.
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