State Fair, historical society should find common ground

For almost five years, the current dispute between the North Dakota State Fair and the Ward County Historical Society has raged on, through hearing after hearing, allegation after accusation, hoisted document after hoisted document.

At issue is the historical society’s Pioneer Village on the grounds of the State Fair in Minot and whether or not that presence is legal. The sides offer black and white perspectives. Both cite ethical and legal high ground. Both have cases to be made. It does not appear, from the outside, to be an easy ruling for the courts to make based on the evidence. Furthermore, a decision either way would do harm to an institution important to the public and beloved by the public.

Such conflicts are always such ugly things because of the general benevolence of both parties and because both parties are essential members of the greater community.

The best possible outcome is a negotiated settlement that removes the situation from the legal system and instead puts people in a room to come up with a solution that is good for the community. No, both parties might not be able to achieve everything they want, but they should be able to make some progress and should be able to avoid inspiring additional acrimony among supporters of one institution or the other.

Now is the time for a reasonable compromise. Surely the historical society does not want to interfere in plans for the State Fair to expand and improve its facilities. And surely the State Fair does not want to see the historical society diminish. Those strong ethical imperatives should be the guiding principles here and the correct personnel is in place to recognize this.

Even a winner in court is likely to be a loser in the court of public opinion.

Isn’t there a better way to end this conflict?