Tennessee State Fair Operator Applicants Must Wait
By Adam Ghassemi
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – After years of controversy, the Tennessee State Fair has just as many questions surrounding its future in 2013 as ever.
Before planning can take place a new state commission, the Tennessee State Fair and Exposition Commission, created by the legislature will first decide who will operate the state fair.
After a decision is made on the operator, the chosen applicant would have to complete the process by getting approval from Metro's Board of Fair Commissioners.
Lobbyist Melissa Bast represents Memphis-based Delta Agri-Business, the non-profit arm of Universal Fairs created solely to operate the Tennessee State Fair. Bast said when they tried to apply to run the 2013 fair they didn't get anywhere.
"You can't continue to do the same thing and expect different results," she said Tuesday. "They are able to do what they want with the Tennessee State Fair."
Last week the Tennessee State Fair and Exposition Commission decided to allow the current nonprofit, the Tennessee State Fair Association, to run the fair in 2013. That decision gave them time to create a formal application process, according to Tennessee Department of Agriculture spokesman Tom Womack.
Executive Director of the Nashville Fairgrounds and Expo Center Buck Dozier said a lot of things may be up in the air right now, but by the time planning for the 2014 state fair comes around, all of it should be worked out.
"If you've got a good package, if you know how to run a good fair and you've got some financial backing. I'm sure the state and Metro government, this Fair Board, would be interested in talking with you," Dozier said.
That means Delta Agri-Business, which believes bringing big entertainment is the secret to making the Tennessee State Fair what it once was will have to wait.
"[Delta Agri-Business] believes in this property. He believes in the viability of the property and he simply wants to bring revenue to this property and see that its existence keeps going," Bast went on to say.
Bast says some members of the Tennessee State Fair and Exposition Commission also serve with the Tennessee State Fair Association, which she worries could be a conflict of interest.
Tuesday Womack said all of those members have resigned from one group or another to resolve those concerns.
The process to operate the 2014 Tennessee State Fair should be available sometime next year.