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Oak Lawn to consider request for beer at county fair

The Oak Lawn Township Board will consider a request for a beer license at the Crow Wing County Fair at its Feb. 1 meeting at the town hall.

Steve Hesse, Crow Wing County Fair manager, said the Crow Wing County Fair Board approved the request late last year by an overwhelming majority but approval is needed by the Oak Lawn Township Board and the Crow Wing County Board.

"It's always been a touchy subject," Hesse said. "I can understand why people would not want it but I can understand why people would want it. I certainly understand the concerns of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and other people."

Mary Lou Cody, a member of the MADD Crow Wing County, said potential problems with beer at the fair included unattended children, underage consumption, the potential for violence and impaired motorists driving along Thirteenth Street when there are many pedestrians present.

"Overall, it's always been a family friendly event," Cody said of the fair. "Don't want to tarnish it with alcohol."

Hesse said the Jaycees' presentation to the fair board was convincing. The Jaycees would be in charge of the employees selling the beer and would be responsible for insurance. He said the beer garden would be fenced off and identification would be checked.

The fair board currently holds a liquor license it uses at specific events at the fairgrounds, Hesse said.

By agreement, the fair board has not used it during the county fair's run.

Hesse said a decline in sponsorships has made it difficult to raise money for needed improvements. Although the fair finished in the black last year the two preceding years the fair board sustained losses.

"Over the last two years sponsorships have dropped by a third," Hesse said.

When sponsorship revenue is lost then money for improvements must come from the fair board's central fund.

Among expenses Hesse cited the maintenance crew that works from spring until October, a water leak near the Methodist food stand, sidewalk patching and paving that is needed, ribbons and advertising.

"Stuff is not cheap these days," Hesse said.

If the town board and the county board approve the license the fair board would enter into a contract with the Jaycees and receive a percentage of the profits, Hesse said. The Jaycees, he said, would use the proceeds raised from the beer garden (after expenses) for area charities.

Bill Lowe, president of the Brainerd Jaycees, said his organization is experienced in handling beer sales to raise money for its charitable donations. He said Jaycees operate three beer stands at the BIR nationals and also conduct a street festival on Seventh Street in Brainerd each year. He said Crow Wing County has one of the biggest fairs in the state and one of the few of it size that does not sell bear.

"All of our neighboring county fairs have it," Lowe said.

The Jaycees president said one reason this request might prevail while requests in earlier years have failed is because the Jaycees are requesting to run the beer sales and not the fair board.

Lowe said the beer garden would have one restricted access entrance, identification would be checked and personnel would be instructed on how to avoid patrons who may have had too much too drink.

He said the Jaycees were looking for support from the community from people who would like to have beer sales at the fair.

MIKE O'ROURKE may be reached at or 855-5860.