Concerns regarding the Ingham County Fair were brought to the Ingham County Board of Commissioners attention during the public comment portion of the meeting on November 7th.
Edward Forrest, board president for the east side community actions center, asked the board for a better breakdown of guidelines for what is needed to participate in the fair. He said a stronger publication of activities prior to the fair would help reach more people. Forrest explained that individuals wish for activities to be published prior to be aware if there is anything of interest to them.
“The fair should really be something that is open and inclusive to everyone. I myself have enjoyed going to the fair.” Forrest said.
Forrest admitted he has not been to the fair often. He credited Joy Gleason for making the point that it seemed like there was nothing of interest to him there.
“I realize that very often we get set in a way on how we do things and so we somewhat, maybe even unintentionally, limit ourselves and put ourselves in a box in how we disseminate information. However, the effort should be to make it accessible to every Ingham County resident who wants to participate in the fair,” said Forrest.
He said the process of getting the notice and information should be broader and engage residents of different ages. Forrest is 61 years old. Forrest said it would make the fair more inclusive and holistic.
Forrest also said it doesn’t take much for people to feel unwelcome at the fair. He says people are divided and polarized. Individuals are more concerned and fear for their safety which is a factor in the lack of participation. He said if someone says the wrong thing there is fear that things will escalade out of proportion. The barriers of not marketing enough need to be improved so it can be determined if that keeps people away.
“I think it’s important for all of us who want to participate in the fair to enjoy them,” said Forrest.
Joy Gleason, a member of the Ingham County Fair board, spoke during public comment as well. She said there needs to be more activities and opportunities that interest other communities. She referenced the mullet competition from the previous year and that it concerned citizens due to it being an exclusive activity. She feels that there are not enough activities for people of color and other individuals.
“There might be something else that we would like to do and would like a space at the fair for that,” Gleason said.
She emphasized that better marketing would help people know what is going on and encourage them to come to the fair. Gleason said that participating in and marketing the Fourth of July or Electric Parade would be beneficial.
“Those two things alone would be those consistent reminders that there is a fair in Ingham County and plant those seeds in people’s minds,” said Gleason.
Gleason also said that there is inequitable treatment for people of color at the fair and facilities. She feels that there are not enough activities that apply to people of color and additional cultures at the fair, which limits the participation.
“There are more than 80,000 people of color who live in Ingham County,” said Gleason.
Gleason said she recommended the fair have more activities that interest people of different cultures. She said given the amount of people of color in the county, there should be more activities held at the fair that are marketing to them.
Commissioner Bryan Crenshaw made a statement following Forrest and Gleason’s comments.
“Thank you for your comment, and the board does not normally reply to public comment but we will be referring these concerns to our human services committee which has oversight to the fair,” said Crenshaw.
Commissioner Randy Maiville is on the county commissioners board along with the fair board. He said it’s not a struggle to make change but it is a struggle to get fair participation and fair goers. He said it is difficult to draw from urban communities.
Maiville appeared surprised that Gleason spoke at the meeting. He said the issue should also be brought up to the fair board director.