City Government

Fair Idea Ignored By Commishes

In light of the desire of Garden City to takeover the Expo Idaho Fairgrounds and Ada Commishes refusal to give it up, we felt compelled to share this vision which the GUARDIAN editor offered up 10 years ago to the Ada County Commishes. This post is a repeat from 2007 and still worthy of consideration.

All you developers and politicians better keep your greedy hands off the Western Idaho Fairgrounds because it belongs to us–the people of Ada County.

If there are any changes they should be along the lines of an “agriculture heritage park” preserving the past in a manner which will educate today’s children and adults. It will provide a hands on experience for students and give us all a peek into the proud agricultural heritage of rural Idaho.

Given the numbers of farmers who have curtailed their farm activities for economic, social, and geriatric reasons, there is a wealth of expertise in the area of milking cows, planting crops, horse shoeing, threshing grain, fixing tractors, feeding goats, and tending chickens.

With a vote of the citizens and through donations, we could finance a demonstration farm with authentic barns, sheds and farm houses–plenty are being demolished to make room for the hordes seeking to live shoulder-to-shoulder with their neighbors in what was once rural Ada County.

Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, Greenfield Village near Detroit, The LBJ Ranch in Texas are all historic parks which preserve our heritage and provide an educational experience for young and old alike with historic demonstration farms and they are big tourist attractions.

The oft-maligned state of Mississippi has a wonderful “southern town” heritage park adjacent to the state fairgrounds in Jackson. It has a general store, church, gas station with a hand pump, and all that exemplified life in the deep south about 1900.

With a little excavation, the high water table at the race track could serve as a superb urban fishery. The Idaho Historical Society has several turn of the century structures which would be a valuable contribution to an authentic Idaho farmstead. Toss in a blacksmith, a small sawmill, some steam engines, antique farm equipment and you have a first class year round educational attraction with working demonstrations on a rotating basis.

If anything is changed or developed at Ada County’s fairground site it should be for the benefit of every citizen in the county and not aimed to benefit politicians and developers. Traditionally county fairs provided a common link between urban and rural life. What better way to make that link permanent than with an historic theme park?

Before the developers and other special interest groups get their hands on our fairgrounds, the people need to make their voices heard in support of a park-like venue with something for everyone.

The horse races have proven to be an endless round of scandals, lawsuits, and a drain on public resources for the pleasure of a dwindling few. With our new farm park we can give youngsters the opportunity to take a wagon ride behind real “horsepower.”

And yes, there is room for a hotel AND God forbid a convention center!

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Beg your parden, the horse races have not been a drain on the county since 1989 — they have been a drain on the finances of the people operating them under the lease. The operators have all made their share of mistakes and managerial blunders that contributed to their problems, of course.

    However, even without proper advertising or promotion and in spite of changing race days, people still turn out to see the races and new people discover them every season. (My connection: I am a race horse owner, mother of a trainer, and former reporter on the fairgrounds.)

    I do agree the fairgrounds should be developed for the citizens of Ada County. We have 40 years invested in this location and it took some 30-plus years to develop the structures we have — several of them paid for by the exhibitors themselves. Fairgrounds are not born in a day.

    The fair and its grounds have not received county money for operations since the 1970s, having to raise their own money from fees, rentals, admissions, etc. The county has contributed some capital funding but, I believe, it continues to be on an irregular basis.

    The location is central and incorporated into the lives of a large number of Ada County residents. When the fair held its first meeting a few years ago to feel out the public about redesigning the current fairgrounds or moving it, person after person spoke out for keeping it where it is.

    But it could be more than it is — it could incorporate the river better into the fair itself. The grounds could be more attractive and there could be a greater effort to have year-round exhibits — such as an art building that could provide regional art and photography groups a permanent exhibit area. There could be a garden attraction of some type. A living farm would be good. And goodness knows that permanent jump course for horse shows that was promised in the early 1970s would be nice. And the grounds could still be an exhibition space for many types of shows and sales.

  2. I read the article in the paper today on the Fairgrounds.. Ooops.. Expo Idaho.

    A couple thoughts…

    1. Why is the County in the entertainment business? Seems like a holdover from 2
    centuries ago.

    2. Let’s set aside open public space on the river and sell the rest to the highest
    bidder (hopefully, Garden City).

    3. No need to replace the fairgrounds.. see #1

    4. If the Fair is truly a money maker (I would love to see an audit), then some
    enterprising capitalist will step up to relocate the Fair and make a handsome

  3. G-Man please don’t let you know who post on this.

    I generally like your idea. Wouldn’t even mind putting some tax money into something that would be educational. PLEASE offer this space to keep the developers away from this. The river could be a nice feature and fishing would be nice as well. Your idea has a lot of potential, but you won’t get far with the commishes starting off like you did–but I understand your frustration. Hope they read this.

  4. Guardian:
    As you well know, the commishes and the developers don’t give a damn about history, the public good, public opinion or any of that. All they care about is: How many dollars per square inch can I rake in from any given piece of ground?
    As for the money angle — the fair, race track, expo buildings etc. have to pretty much pay for themselves. Aside from a few bucks for some of the operators now and then, most of the income goes back into the fairgrounds — or whatever idiotic name they decide to call it next.
    On the horse racing, of course, the state — or is it the county, or both — takes a share off the top of the handle (the amount wagered), the track gets some, and the remainder is divvied up among the bettors who pick the right horses to lay their money on.

    As for Erico 49 — I don’t know which developer you work for, if any, but you do seem to have their frame of mind: GET THE MONEY, money, money money ….
    And, no, nobody would take it over and make a big profit. There simply isn’t big profit in such an operation, although there is a bit more than from, say, a greenbelt or a park or a fishing pond or river, or library, or any of dozens of other things operated by various levels of government.
    Personally, I’d like to see it remain a fairgrounds, etc., with some improvements that could be added without destroying what we already have. Building on a new site could cost a fortune and take many years — not really a viable idea.
    As for the Guardian’s idea — it’s a great one, but I’d like to see such a site added to instead of replacing the current amenities.
    OK, I’m a dreamer, too.

  5. Guardian, Unless you sent this original piece in a letter or email to them, you can’t count that they read it here. A simple search does not even bring the original post.

    As for the idea, an agricultural theme park would cost money to operate. It would have to be open 7 days a week. There would be no guarantee that people would come to this type of attraction let alone pay for it. The only business operation the county should run is the landfill because trash is a guaranteed to keep flowing.

    CLANCY–The original was in the Statesman and I did indeed communicate with the Commishes directly. It frankly just died…Fish and Game, Historical Society were all contacted and expressed interest at the time. I agree on trash business.

  6. Seems like the agriculture community would take an interest in a proposal such as yours, particularly as much as they complain about the loss of their heritage with all the growth taking place.

    Of course, seeking to have those involved in ag actually put money into a project like this might be pretty “iffy” — unless the federal government provides them the same subsidy the ag folks always expect these days in order for most of their other enterprises to survive.

  7. Let’s see. Given that the commishes have already shown complete disregard for citizen input,what do you think would be their response to “spend money making the fairgrounds a unique attraction or make money selling it to the highest bidder?

    The only bright point would be that they will spend the next decade in court with Garden City fighting over who gets the money.

  8. I agree with The Guardian… the land down there belongs to the residents and it needs to aimed at the community at large. So far it’s done a mediocore job. The fair is great, the horse racing is fine, my dad loves to drag me to those damn RV shows but I’d love to see that river frontage used and something more permanent and educational down there… the library isn’t too far now and it would definately do well all year with all the schools in the area.

    I just think the current grounds, marketing and planning are stuck in the 70s… they aren’t looking forward. And yes… let’s not sell this land off… no more fuel to the building and development fire.

  9. Why don’t we get the Simplots, the Yanke’s and the Tertilings together and create a real “old idaho” hertitage park. I would help create it!

    They can buy the land from the citizens and make a hertitage park out of it. Then we can go out into the very middle of the country and set aside a very large area (200+ acres) (like a central park in NYC) that would have the fair, expo – yes something that competes with the convention center – yes I know the mayor will upchuck on this) and 15 soccer fields and softball fields.

    EDITOR NOTE–You forgot libraries, a parking garage and a TRAIN!

  10. Grumpy Old Guy
    Mar 14, 2007, 11:44 pm

    OK, I think you’ve missed an obvious analogy in this one, Guardian. The slave “cabins” in the ole south are better historic places to compare here. Mayhap we could have some Native American Reservation Units as the “Northern equivalent” to show how things really were, and are. Oh, I know, farm wagon races we could wager on, and Old West Shoot outs – if we could suggest the participants and have them use live ammo, I’m sure the NRA would endorse this one with great glee.

  11. Rotsa ruck turning the fairgrounds into an educational operation. These days such ops are usually ugly theme parks, overdone and commercialized. We don’t need another one:
    Boise city itself is becoming a theme park, controlled by and dedicated to the super rich developer millionnaires who belong to the Arid Club (a perfect moniker for that club, by the way).

  12. Grumpy Old Guy
    Mar 16, 2007, 4:11 am

    OK, after further reflection it dawns on me that the City’s poop farm operation could be combined with the historic agricultural exhibits. Instead of fire-works for the Independence Day celebration, we could watch the Commissioners spread it around thickly – just to see how it is done.

  13. Check out the Living History Farms at in Urbandale/Des Moines, Iowa.

    Why not a Living History Farm (or whatever) in Boise/Garden City, Idaho?

    EDITOR NOTE–Our sentiments exactly.

  14. Folks, If you ever get a chance, check out the Redmond OR. county fairgrounds. They did a fantastic job and little ole Redmond maks ours look like an abandoned ghetto project.

  15. Fair insider
    Mar 19, 2007, 10:42 am

    Well…Phil Kushlan used to be on the Expo Idaho board – insisting all the time it was not a conflict of interest. Although the board does not make decisions, they do recommend decisions to Ada commishes and there were certainly valid questions about his interests.

    Master planning has been going on repeatedly for Expo Idaho – with very few voices talking about the “pubic interest” in the public’s property.

    It’s mainly always been about how to make a lot of money for….and I’m not exactly sure who – not the county that’s for sure.

    Plans don’t get very far very fast, no matter the content – not because anyone is holding progress back, but because Expo Idaho doesn’t use taxpayer dollars – so any money to pay for new projects has to be generated and saved first. That’s a tough game when your money-making game is in the entertainment business.

    I sure hope that spectacular Boise River view stays in the public’s hands and becomes more public-friendly than the chain link fence folks now see. The horses have the best view!

  16. 4th-gen Idahoan
    Oct 3, 2017, 5:14 pm

    The old Sterling (?) property on North Cole near Mountain View is supposed to be turned into a historical park. How many of these do we need? I’m okay with some development along Chinden and Glenwood (and I drive through that intersection daily), but would like to see the horse track and paddock area turned into a recreation area (baseball, football, soccer, basketball, tennis) for both schools and the general public.

  17. Let’s get some Ada County Commissioners who are not sympathetic to the pathetic Garden City and their wish list to put food and store chains on the fairgrounds, and elect forward thinkers for the property, baseball and horse racing include.

    For a quick reality check, when do people get the message that they should be retired? When they are found deceased in their chair?

    No positive forward action has occurred on the fairgrounds property for about a decade.

    If you have new skills, leadership, and experience, please get yourself elected.

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