‘We’ll be ready for them’

State fairgrounds prepared to handle 3 major events

Jill Schramm/MDN Grounds staff with the State Fair mow and trim weeds on property next to an east parking lot Tuesday in preparation for the fair.

Prepping the fairgrounds for three major events in three months is a big job. But North Dakota State Fair staff say they are ready.

The State Fair begins this Friday and runs through July 27. The Family Motor Coach Association convention runs Aug. 14-17, and Norsk Hostfest is Sept. 25-28.

Renae Korslien, State Fair general manager, said getting the grounds ready for the fair is a long process. Setting up the barns starts in April.

“Nobody understands what it takes for us to set this up – logistically set it up,” Korslien said of the fair. Bringing in commercial exhibitors, for instance, is an orchestrated process because if exhibitors aren’t moved in a specific order, the movement can interfere with other exhibitors getting into their spaces. That moving process needs to start in early July.

“We moved in over 600 commercial exhibitors,” Korslien said, “plus the all the big stuff backstage, plus the carnival, plus all the things that the grounds people do. Garbage cans alone – getting them out, getting them clean.”

Jill Schramm/MDN A grounds employee with the State Fair washes benches at one of the stages on the fairgrounds Tuesday.

Even during the fair, grounds crews stay busy changing a horse show arena to a Bull-a-Rama venue, a poultry barn into a dairy barn and a concert stage into a race track and back again.

“People don’t really notice that stuff, and we don’t want them to,” Korslien said.

As soon as the fair ends after midnight Saturday, crews are scheduled to immediately begin removing dirt from the arenas used for livestock competitions. Cleaning crews will arrive on Monday to begin hitting daily benchmarks necessary to prepare all the buildings for the next events. The goal is to stay ahead of FMCA advance teams arriving on Aug. 4.

“I think they’ll be nipping right at our heels,” said Craig Rudland, assistant general manager for the fair. “I believe we have it planned out almost to the hour of the day, so that when they get here, we’re not stumbling over each other. They know what they can start doing, and we’ll continue with our process.”

All preparation activity is scheduled in detail, and with the FMCA convention, scheduling was put in place several months ago.

FMCA will be using nearly all the fair buildings. Korslien said that means a fair barn can’t be a barn by August. Garbage and manure need to be loaded up and off the grounds as fast as staff can do it. The City of Minot has agreed to open its landfill the Sunday after the fair to accommodate that schedule.

Once FMCA leaves, more cleanup will be necessary to prepare for annual Hostfest crews who begin moving in and decorating in mid-September. In between the major events are Motor Magic and flat track racing, along with private rentals.

About 500 seasonal workers are required to put on the fair, and about a dozen of those workers are on the grounds crew. Rudland said the fair will keep some temporary staff longer this year to help with events through September.

The fairgrounds has hosted the FMCA convention on three previous occasions so while preparations aren’t new for staff, they are out of the routine.

“With FMCA coming in, it really changes how we do things drastically,” Rudland said. “You can’t do it with a good crew. You have to have a great crew to do it. We have such a great crew.”

Some crew members have been with the organization for 15 to 20 years.

“They know what needs to be done and when it needs to be done and how it needs to be done,” Rudland said. “Again, we’ve got an unbelievably great bunch of staff, and we’ll be ready for them.”