The Alachua County Commission decided to cut ties with the Alachua County Fair Association for holding an unapproved pig race and owing them $1,980.
The commission discussed the issue for about 15 minutes before unanimously deciding not to sign another contract with the association for the Fall 2019 fair during a special meeting. Instead, the commissioners are looking into partnering with the Newberry Watermelon Festival.
The association could not be reached for comment.
The commission started talks about not resigning during a Feb. 5 commission meeting. Gina Peebles, the assistant county manager for community and administrative services, said the association owes the county $1,980 and showed accounting inconsistencies over the past four years.
The association was also faulted for holding a pig race at the 2018 fair without the commission’s approval. Robert Mullen, the manager of the association, told the commission the Florida Department of Agriculture approved it.
The county will now have to decide if it wants to hold two events or combine the fair and the watermelon festival, Commissioner Robert Hutchinson said at the Tuesday meeting.
Although he did agree with the decision, he said that fairs in this area of Florida are dying because of theme parks nearby. He also said some activities at fairs are dishonest.
“You have these games of chance where you end up winning these giant stuffed animals that were made in foreign countries with toxic materials that no one wants,” he said.
The fair will take place at the Canterbury Equestrian Center, at 23100 W. Newberry Road, Peebles said. The county is in the process of buying the land.
Peebles said she is pleased with the board’s choice made by the board and is thankful it took the staff’s recommendations into account.
“The board really took a thoughtful approach on how to handle this,” she said. “Two weeks ago, staff asked the board to allow the fair association to reconcile their discrepancies and now they had a clear answer to be able to make a decision.”
Hutchinson cited several local festivals, such as Vegfest and the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire, to explain what he was hoping the new event to include.
“I’m hoping that we create our own sort of quirky fair or carnival that are much more attuned to the people of Alachua County,” Hutchinson said.
Emma Hennessey, a 19-year-old UF business sophomore, rides the “Rock and Roll” with 19-year-old Demarco Reaves Saturday evening at the Alachua County Fair. Reaves was happy to experience a local event because he was visiting Hennessey from North Carolina. Look at the gallery here.