Prospects for the Morgan County Fair opening as scheduled in 25 days have dimmed with no site announced, horticulture exhibits canceled and an alternative livestock showing planned.
A representative for the fair operator, Modern Midways of Miami, said the Tennessee Valley Exposition board has not informed him of the fair’s location this year.
Brian Morrissey, general agent for Modern Midways, said if he “hasn’t heard anything” from the board this week, the company will drop the Morgan County Fair from its 2019 calendar.
“We have a few more days before we have to move on,” Morrissey said Friday. “I’m waiting on them to get back in touch with us. I was hoping to hear something yesterday. If we don’t hear from them, the contract will be null and void.”
He said his company hires "quite a few" local contractors each year for the fair.
The tentative dates for the Morgan County Fair are Sept. 19-28, Morrissey said.
Repeated phone calls by The Daily to Tennessee Valley Exposition (TVE) board members went unanswered and messages were not returned Thursday and Friday.
The State Products Mart Authority sold the 49.2-acre tract that has hosted the fair behind Home Depot in Decatur for $1.4 million to Land Services LLC of Decatur, a private company, in February.
Jeff Parker, of Jeff Parker Realty and managing member of Land Services, said at the time of the purchase he had no obligation to the Morgan County Fair.
“When I bought the property, I never had a commitment to the fair. Nothing’s changed,” Parker said Thursday. “I bought the property to redevelop it. Right now, I have no immediate plans for the property, but I have no commitment to the fair whatsoever.”
At the time of the purchase, TVE board co-chair Roger Glaze said, “We’re having talks with the new owner. Things are in flux right now; however, we have a couple of other places on a short list we’re looking at for the fair. I am just not at liberty to talk about them yet. I can say there will be a Morgan County Fair in late September.”
Glaze did not return calls from The Daily on Friday.
Jimmy Ray Smith, board chairman of the State Products Mart Authority, a public entity, said his group simply leased the site to the TVE.
“The State Products Mart Authority just owned the property,” he said. “We have nothing to do with the fair itself. It’s certainly not our intent to do away with the Morgan County Fair. To my knowledge there will still be one. But we have met a lot of resistance (from residents) when we tried to help (TVE) relocate.” Smith declined to disclose the alternate locations.
The mayors of Hartselle, Trinity and Falkville all said they have had nobody contact them about hosting the fair in September.
Smith said Celebration Arena in Priceville, also owned by State Products Mart Authority, is not large enough to host the fair.
Vicki Morese with the Morgan County Master Gardeners said TVE informed her group in early August there would be no horticulture exhibit at the fair this year.
“It’s always been a fun project,” she said. “We got a lot of visibility from it being at the fair.”
She said her group has partnered with the city of Decatur and will have shows at the Point Mallard pavilion.
County Extension Coordinator Mike Reeves said TVE usually contacts his office in the early spring about the annual youth poultry exhibit at the fair.
“We did not hear from them this year,” he said. “We would have already met to discuss details of our Chick Chain.” He said 4-H participants in the program raise chickens for 20 weeks, keeping records along the way. At the fair exhibit, the chickens are judged and auctioned off, he said.
“We felt unsure about it this year, so we have combined with Lawrence County for a show,” Reeves said. “We both had low numbers and thought combining the programs would help us.” He said they plan to exhibit at the Lawrence County Fair in October.
He said if there’s no Morgan County Fair, “it won’t affect us.”
But, he said, “It’s nice to have the exposure at the fair, and it gave them something else going on at the fair. It was a mutually beneficial event.”
In May, Parker allowed the popular Daikin Festival to be staged on the former fairgrounds site.
“Daikin is a wonderful company that has done so much good for this community,” Parker said last week. “It would have been a short window for them to find a new place.”
According to a 2015 report, the Tennessee Valley Exposition that year spent about $120,000 to produce the fair.
Any profits are split with 20% going to the State Products Mart Authority, 40% to TVE, and the remainder to a local charity. Local charities receiving fair money in the past have been the American Cancer Society, Parents and Children Together, and the Morgan County Child Advocacy Center.