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Guest Opinion: Say no to a beer garden

Regarding a beer garden at the Crow Wing County Fair. In years past I have strongly stood against having a beer garden at the fair, as a community member, as a drunken driving victim, as a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) volunteer. Why do I ...

Regarding a beer garden at the Crow Wing County Fair.

In years past I have strongly stood against having a beer garden at the fair, as a community member, as a drunken driving victim, as a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) volunteer. Why do I have such passion to say no to a beer garden at the Crow Wing County Fair?

On Jan. 27, 2006, my family became a victim to drunken driving when my sister was killed at the young age of 34 by a drunken driver. She left behind four children, nine siblings, parents, grandparents, 30-plus nieces and nephews, friends and a community that grieves daily of her loss of life. An individual chose to drink and drive, and used a car as a weapon, a deadly weapon. In a few weeks we will work through the ninth year we have had to move forward without her. Grief and pain lasts indefinitely, easing some over time but never fully going away. Forgiveness can also occur. But most importantly it's the lesson we all learned at the cost of my sister's (and many other victim's) lives, to never drink and drive.

Statistics that are posted on MADD.org, clearly state the severity of how drinking and driving is real, still occurring and 100 percent preventable.

Brainerd lakes area should pride themselves as one of the last (larger) county fairs in Minnesota that does not have a beer garden. This county fair draws in thousands each year. As I am also a vendor at the fair, I see about 80 percent of the demographics are families with young children. Why? Because we are a family oriented fair and also as a parent this is important to me and many others. The community and fair board have done a wonderful job keeping it family friendly. Why change that? Yes, adding a beer garden will change the atmosphere of the fair. It may help with the ever so needed finances for the fair because drinking is common, so there is profit in it. But look at the whole picture! Beyond the change of a "family friendly" event, it will cost the community a lot. From additional security patrol, police on the grounds and in the community for safety, to the community covering these incarcerations and fees, through a high chance of underage consumption, and alcohol can perpetuate violence and damage to property. No, not everyone drinks irresponsibly. All it takes is one. One to not have a prior plan before consuming alcohol, one to get in the vehicle and drive away intoxicated. What about the many pedestrians, or the family in the van in front of them? Or even the children in the vehicle with the one driving after drinking? By hosting a beer garden, what message are you telling our community and our children? That alcohol is needed to have a good time?

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I know over the years the fair has struggled financially to continue to provide such a good quality fair each summer. In the past they have tried fundraisers in place of the beer gardens, which I personally thank them for their energy in searching for creative ways to achieve finances. If the community wants to keep our fair as the best one around, then we need to show our support in volunteering and financially supporting. One suggestion is to charge an entrance fee at the gates for everyone. Even if 50 cents per person was collected (with approximately 8,000 people) that would be $4,000 for the fair. There are many other ideas as well. But please, no beer garden. There are plenty of establishments in the area where people can obtain their alcohol from if they wanted to "have that cold drink on a hot summer day."

It only takes one person. Why do you want to take that chance? The community has worked hard to get off the top 10 most deadliest counties to drinking and driving in Minnesota. Let's keep it that way and say no to the deer garden proposal for the Crow Wing County Fair.

LORNA HENSCH is a victim and volunteer for Crow Wing County MADD is an active nonprofit organization and is not against drinking, but has a mission to stop drunken driving, to prevent underage consumption and support victims of this crime.

Related Topics: CROW WING COUNTY FAIR
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