Lee County Fair concerns ahead of 100th anniversary answered

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The president of the Southwest Florida and Lee County Fair Association says nobody will be able to put on the type of fair they did.

“I feel bad for the community. We know that whatever model is used, they’re not going to deliver the product that we did,” said Michael Peak, president of the SWFL & Lee County Fair Association.

“There was no negotiation. It was take it or leave it from the county,” said Peak.

In a press conference Thursday morning, Lee County Commissioner Mike Greenwell and county manager Dave Harner set the record straight.

“Lee County will be running the fair,” said Greenwell.

Peak goes on to explain how and why this happened.

“In 1996, the commissioners at the time and Fair Association, that’s when we first started the management agreement,” said Peak. “The county was losing money. They were spending more tax dollars to keep the Civic Center open.”

“In 2000, the commissioners inserted that we had a 20-year agreement with the county for the management,” said Peak. “Eighteen months before that expired, we approached the county management and commissioners about extending a new one.”

From that point on, it was a year-to-year agreement. The Fair Association said they were presented with one motion from the county this year on Sept. 19. On Oct. 5, they were asked to submit a draft to the county.

They said they didn’t hear back until a commissioner’s meeting when they were told the county was taking over the fair because negotiations were at an “impasse.”

“We were at an impasse? Well, you know, that’s a very convenient word to use for ‘not negotiating’ because that’s what we felt. That’s what happened to us,” said Peak.

We also know who the new vendor of the fair will be. Reithoffer Shows, which operates fairs and festivals in South Carolina, will be taking over.

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