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Ag society proposes perpetual lease on fairgrounds

The East Otter Tail County Agricultural Society has expressed an interest in making Perham the ‘official’ permanent site of the summer fair.

Perham has been the home of the East Otter Tail County Fair since its first year in 1910; now the agricultural society, also referred to as the Fair Board, is seeking a perpetual lease to secure the Perham fairgrounds as its home – indefinitely.

At the end of April, members of the Fair Board met with city leaders to talk about Perham’s history and relationship with the fair. In addition to the perpetual lease, they were also making a request for a city donation toward the new cattle barn they’re planning to construct at the fairgrounds this summer.

Ed Keil, vice president of the Fair Board, explained that the lease has traditionally been a 20-year contract. The city of Perham owns the land at the fairgrounds; the agricultural society owns the buildings and facilities. A perpetual lease would remain flexible and open to changes, but would not necessarily need to be reviewed and re-signed every 20 years.

The idea was prompted by questions from neighboring cities and organizations considering making a donation for the cattle barn project, Keil said. Some people have wondered how long the fair will be held in its current location in Perham, and a perpetual lease would clear up any doubt and “secure our place here,” he said.

City councilors seemed open to the idea, but no decisions were made at the April meeting. The lease was expected to be added to the city council’s May meeting agenda. At that same meeting, scheduled for next Monday evening, councilors are also expected to talk more about a possible city contribution to the new cattle barn.

As of the end of April, about $35,000 had been raised toward the project. Fair Board members said they need to raise $50,000 before construction can begin, and they are hoping to have the facility up in time for this year’s fair. In all, $100,000 needs to be raised.

Marie Johnson

Marie Johnson joined the Perham Focus more than five years ago, and has since worn many hats as writer, editor and page designer. She lives in rural Frazee with her husband, Dan, their one-year-old son, Simon, and their yellow lab, Louisa. 

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