City, Chamber willing to work with fairground event planners
The second two-hour meeting between groups who book or would like to book events into the Lincoln County Fairground was joined by the Merrill mayor and zoning administrator and the executive director of the Merrill Area Chamber of Commerce. The group then discussed city ordinances and other perceived impediments the organizers perceived from the city as well as ways to bring more events to the fairgrounds.
Mayor Bill Bialecki and George Schau, Zoning Administrator, said the city agrees that any addition events that can be attracted to the fairgrounds are a win/win/win situation for the planners, city and county. The increased economic stream these events bring to area businesses is something the city is well aware.
“What can the city do to bring more things to the fairgrounds? I’m here to help,” Schau said.
The committee and facilitator Art Lersch then listed off the items they identified at a meeting in January that were things the city could do to be more accommodating. These ranged from lowering the rate for water that would be used for flooding the area in front of the grandstands to provide an icy track for snowmobile races to loosening the regulations on the sale of alcohol at events to reducing the cost of ambulances standing by, as required by many sanctioning body.
Bialecki said he and Common Council President Steve Hass agree the city must do what it can to make the fairgrounds more attractive to additional events.
“I understand that it has been fairly restrictive in the past,” Bialecki said. “There is going to be a new spirit of cooperation between the city and some of these events. I’ll see to that.”
One of the ways the city could help would be to make adding signs directing visitors to the fairgrounds as part of the redesign of the signs citywide. Currently there is no sign, in the city or on Highway 51 that points visitors to the fairgrounds.
Other concerns would be brought to the attention of the entire Common Council, by way of the appropriate committee.
Executive Director Debbe Kinsey said the Chamber was not only willing to help promote events at the fairground, her group wanted to book it for a Movie in the Park in early July. She and her staff became frustrated with how the county clerk’s office rushed them to decide on a date and what areas they needed for the event by the end of January. At last week’s meeting, she then found out that in the month of July, the Fair Board technically has the lease on the fairground, although fair board members said it wouldn’t object to the Movie.
Both the city and Chamber also agreed to have a link on their website that would link to a schedule for the facility and information on how to lease the property.
The group agreed to meet again on March 30 to see what solutions can be worked out to other problem areas in the facilities itself. Lersch said more business owners, service organization leaders or anyone interested in holding an event at the fairgrounds is welcome to attend the meeting.