Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Earlier this week, a representative of a new online magazine, thepostsd.com, solicited via twitter a call for anybody who had never attended the South Dakota State Fair. As I fit that category, I immediately responded, and I answered a few questions via email.

The resulting article hit the web yesterday, as the magazine officially launched. Editor-in-chief Heather Mangan did a fine job on the piece, interspersing my (predictably) pessimistic comments with those who believe the state fair is a vital event for our state.

Having nothing against the Fair, my point was mainly that there’s no real desire on my part to drive 2 ½ hours when we have a local fair that is at least as good, if not better. Even those that don’t live in the area are more attracted to the Sioux Empire Fair just because it is an excuse to come to the “big city”.

Yet there is one quote in the article that really stands out as a perfect example of the type of attitude that we routinely see in this area from elected officials and other community leaders. “Any ordinary South Dakotan that is doing their part to live in their community and contribute to their community should go to the fair,” S.D. Rep. Jason Frerichs said.

Really? It’s our duty to attend the State Fair? No sir, it’s the State Fair’s duty to give people a reason to attend. It’s our duty to demand that organizations and functions don’t sit on their laurels, and continue to look for ways to improve. This crazy “you should support us because we exist” attitude has long been a hindrance to innovation.

Without people demanding accountability, those in charge tend to get complacent. A perfect example happened to me twenty years ago. A good friend of mine had the opportunity to book the Replacements in our fine city. When we contacted the only facility that could hold such a show, the Sioux Falls Coliseum, we were initially denied because it would be “too much work”. The Arena in the early 80’s had a similar situation, and many would argue that’s the biggest problem with the Washington Pavilion these days.

The bottom line is I’ll make my decision on attending any event based on whether I perceive it’s worthiness. Ok, I'm not an easy sell, but the pressure is on planners and organizers of any event to create an environment that draws people on its own merits, not because it’s expected.