Stalemate over relocation continues between museum, State Fair

Bruce Brooks, treasurer of the Ward County Historical Society, said in an email Saturday that there are no ongoing negotiations with the State Fair Board over moving the Pioneer Village off the fairgrounds, despite comments made earlier in the week by site director Sue Bergan.

Brooks said in the email that the historical society board has made it clear it has no plans to move the museum. It contends that they are under no obligation to move under the terms of a 1966 contract, which states that “the North Dakota State Fair Association will allow the Northwest North Dakota Historical Society to maintain and operate its building located on the fairgrounds.”

“The historical society has given its response to the fair board and awaits the fair’s decision,” Brooks said.

The fair board wants the museum moved off the grounds and earlier this year had set a September deadline for the historical society to introduce a relocation plan. The fair board’s master plan includes a plan to eventually build a large convention center on the fairgrounds in the location where the exposition and dairy barns, Jaycees Building and 4-H Building are situated. The fair board also wants to relocate the road that runs by the Pioneer Village Museum on the fairgrounds, which would require moving the museum off the fairgrounds. State Fair manager Renae Korslien said the fair board’s main objective for the move is the growth of the fair.

“It is not our intention to push away the Ward County Historical Society without anywhere to go,” said Korslien in an email Friday. “The preference of the North Dakota State Fair board is to use our energy and resources to help them find an area that will help them grow as well, rather than use up our resources in court.”

The fair board and the Historical Society discussed the fate of the museum at a board meeting in May, at which both sides appeared entrenched in their positions, and it looked possible the dispute could be headed to court.

About 1,000 people signed a petition during this year’s State Fair in favor of keeping the museum on the fairgrounds, according to site director Bergan. They also signed a petition in favor of moving Ward County’s first one-room schoolhouse, the former Graham No. 1 in St. Mary’s School District, from a field in Lonetree to the museum grounds. The late Robert Sandstrom donated the school to the museum, but the fair board has thus far refused permission to relocate the schoolhouse to the museum grounds.