Permanent site sought for Grand Forks and District Fall Fair

The Grand Forks and District Fall Fair Society is seeking a permanent home for the fair.
Les Braden, president of the Grand Forks and District Fall Fair Society, proposed three options recently to Grand Forks city council.
The first is to purchase a portion of the Sugimoto property, which is currently potato farmland located northerly to the city by North Fork/Franklin Road; the second is dedicating a portion of a parcel of land (Parcel Z) south of 68th Avenue, including rezoning if required; and the third option is dedicating approximately 3.5 acres west of Dick Bartlett Park and east of the Silver Kettle Village. Braden hopes this will be done by 2013.
Braden reminded city councilors at a recent council meeting of a promise made in June 1999 that then city council had designated the property at the west end of the city (Parcel Z Plan 28940) for the fall fair and other stakeholders.
However, the promise was reversed several months later by the incoming city council.
“Council tried to say they aren’t responsible because it was a different council that said it, but morally they have an obligation to the people of Grand Forks to supply us with a decent sized chunk of land,” Braden told the Grand Forks Gazette.
Mayor Brian Taylor, who was also the president of the fall fair society for three years, shares Braden’s frustrations with the lack of permanent space.
“The problem is, from the city’s side, we’re looking for an appropriate property that would give the versatility that would allow this to be more than a one time a year site,” he told The Gazette. “It has to be a site that will accommodate other groups and organizations that could utilize the space, such as the 4-H groups or agricultural organizations.”
During the meeting, Coun. Michael Wirischagin noted that he supported the idea of finding a permanent home for the fall fair.
“From my point of view, I don’t see Parcel Z as a bad fit,” he said, adding he would like to see a business plan from the society before he could agree or make a motion. Wirischagin also questioned what would go onto the property, how much they would want, and the time frame. This included what the society would require from the city.
Councillors Cher Wyers, Patrick O’Doherty, Bob Kendel, Neil Krog and Gary Smith would also like to see a business plan.
Braden noted that although the councilors would like to see a business plan, it is difficult to create one when the society does not know what chunk of land they would be given.
“We know what size we want, about 20 acres (eight hectares) – having talked with a couple of other B.C. fairs,” he explained. “They told us don’t go for anything less because you’re going to need it in the future. If you’re trying to expand and put in permanent (buildings) you need a piece of land big enough to do so.”
With additions including parking facilities and permanent buildings, Braden noted that the Grand Forks and District Fall Fair Society is eyeing two places: Parcel Z or a part of Sugimoto’s land, which is still within the city limits and close to water and sewer pipes.
“I do know there are grants available but in order to get a grant, you have to have a piece of land,” he said. “We want to be able to access grants that are available to assist in the construction of buildings to house events, the construction of which could be done to incorporate the future development of a community centre.”
The idea of a community centre has been a big question for many organizations in Grand Forks that are looking for a larger facility to hold events.
In Braden’s presentation, it was noted that a community centre would also benefit the city as an event location that can be used by community groups and organizations.
Ultimately, Braden pointed out there should be a public discussion with city council and residents on whether or not there should be a permanent space.
“If people feel that we don’t deserve it and nothing will become of anything, then let us know,” he concluded. “On the same token, if everybody is in favour of it, we’ll keep working as we had the last couple of years in getting a permanent site.”
– With files from Karl Yu

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