Fairgrounds Perfect For Farm Theme Park



After nearly 2 years and $165,000 in consulting fees to come up with ideas for relocating the Western Idaho Fiargrounds, Ada County Commishes have settled on a wise course of action: Do nothing.

Much of the motivation came when a Garden City Councilor proposed some sort of urban renewal project that would put houses at the fair grounds, known these days by some as Expo Idaho–not to be confused with Nampa’s Idaho Center.

Since the horse racing venue has been nothing but trouble–both legal and financial–for the fair, the GUARDIAN has another idea. One we offered commishes years before the study was commissioned.



We think the race track area is a natural for an urban “Idaho Agricultural Heritage Park.” It would be the perfect place to showcase our state’s historic farm-based lifestyle. Complete with horse drawn wagon rides, actual barns and farm houses, along with livestock, a garden, urban fishery (F&G was on board for that), the park would be a destination spot for tourists and school field trips alike.

We have seen similar venues throughout the country. One in Jackson Missippi–at the fairgrounds–comes to mind along with another at the LBJ Ranch in Texas.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. School field trips?!?

    Mr. Guardian… you’re not keeping up! We can’t afford both roads and field trips, so the field trips gotta go! (nudge-nudge, wink-wink)

    Actually, I like your idea, as long as it’s done by somebody in the private sector. A long-term lease, or something like that.

  2. Wow! I actually really like that idea and a perfect location for something like a working Heritage Farm.

  3. I agree with Bikeboy regarding letting a private entity or foundation run this farm. Maybe strike a deal with the Simplot family or foundation. JR always wanted a ag museum.

  4. Working Heritage Farm?

    How about a labor camp for the Sheriff. They could grow the food they eat and raise livestock to put meat on the food trays for county inmates.

    Long term inmates would get to earn their upkeep and costs of incarceration.

  5. Ya saying we oughta just do what everybody else is doing? Not too imaginative!

    As for moving the fairgrounds — heck, it’s the only thing the Garden City area has going for it, now that the state has made them close the casinos and the cops have driven the brothels underground.

    As for the horse racing — the racing hasn’t been the problem as much as have the idiot county comishes. The outfit that ran the races the past two seasons would be way in the black if the comishes hadn’t raised the rent by a couple of zillion percent from what it had been.

    The previous operator had been doing pretty well, until the commishes butted in and kept changing things, changing the conditions, etc. Granted, Arnell didn’t know what the hell he was doing when he first took it over, but he was learning to listen to people who do know. And he had cracked down on all the druggies, thrown some of them off the track, got others to clean up their act, etc. And when they nailed him for serving to underage drinkers, they did not charge him with any violation, showed no evidence of underage drinking, etc., just yanked the license.

    Now, another outfit wants to run it, but the commishes have stalled on a decision until many of the horse owners have given up and taken their cayuses elsewhere, while others don’t know what to do because they have no place to train their horses and get them in shape for races when the county won’t let them use the track until the commishes make a decision.

    Upshot is, even if the commishes finally OK the current offer, it may be too late.

    Well, at least there still will be something in the G.C. area (the fairgrounds is technically not *in* the city; it’s in the county) besides just more subdivisions.

    If the commishes want to do something actually useful, they could change the name back to fairgrounds — a word people can actually understand.

  6. Wow. The main industry of the area when I was a kid — now consigned to a theme park.

    Pathetic. What we need are more “real” farms — the kind that don’t really exist any more except in the speeches of politicians. Instead of making a museum exibit, just make the ground available to the public to actually grow things on.

    It’s still a good way to make food.

  7. “It’s still a good way to make food.”

    Nope; it’s still *the only* way to make food!

  8. No matter what you think of how the county first, then leaseholders during the last 20 years, have operated Les Bois Race Track, the summer racing season brings a lot of money to Treasure Valley businesses. Owners, trainers, grooms, jockeys, etc. in aggregate spend hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, all within the Treasure Valley.

    Many come from outside the area and must rent housing and spend for day-to-day living, which would be spent elsewhere if not for the track. The 700 to 800 horses on the backside during the racing season must be fed, bedded and otherwise cared for every day. If there were no races, the horses and their attendant people would be not be there.

    In my own case, if I didn’t own horses that run at Les Bois, the money I have spent on this passion could have been used to travel — outside Treasure Valley, outside Idaho and even outside the country. I could have gone to those neat places Guardian gets to visit for his day job. In any case, some or all of my money I spent in Treasure Valley because of the horse races, probably would have gone elsewhere.

  9. Red Boy Blue Neighborhood
    Apr 2, 2009, 11:06 pm

    I like the Simplot Heritage Farm AG Musuem idea. It would all tie in with the fair.

  10. David Zarkin
    Apr 3, 2009, 10:05 am

    I agree with Gordon that “fairgrounds” is a more relevant name for a State Fair location. In my time in Idaho I never remember a State Fair although I did go to the Snake River Stampede but that’s not the same is it? Maybe they could name it the Larry Craig Fairgrounds to garner some out of state interest.
    Interesting that people are losing money at the horse track in Idaho. Things have really changed in 40 years. Once I realized that racing was a fools game I quit. Dave Zarkin

  11. Zarkin:
    Naw, I don’t they they should name the Fairgrounds for Larry Craig. Could name a restroom or two for him, though.

    As for racing being a fool’s game, do you mean owning race horses or betting on them?
    Yeah, owning is a fool’s game — There’s a saying in the business: “Do you know how to become a millionaire in horse racing? Start out as a multimillionaire.”
    But the owners, trainers, jockeys, grooms etc. at a small track like Boise don’t do it for the money; they do it for the love of the game and the love of horses.
    Personally, I like to watch the races. And $2 to get in is about the cheapest entertainment around. And if I bet $2 on a race or two and lose, so what? Or if I bet $2 on each of the 8 or 10 races in a day, it’s still, including admission, only $18 to $22, which ain’t too bad when you think about the cost of concerts, skiing, snowmobiling and other things Idahoans do for fun.
    Actually, I rarely bet on every race, and I generally pick up a winning bet now and then, to lower the cost even more.
    And ain’t nobody ever lost as much betting on a horse race as they have playing the stock market!

  12. Yeah, and all that, but…pleeeze bring back weiner dog racing!

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