Officials gather, discuss Pioneer Village museum

Some influential people came out in support Wednesday of relocating the Ward County Historical Society Pioneer Village museum from the State Fairgrounds.

Officials at the gathering Wednesday morning included North Dakota State Fair Manager Renae Korslien, Minot Mayor Curt Zimbelman, Wendy Howe, executive director of Visit Minot; John MacMartin, president of the Minot Area Chamber of Commerce; David Reiten, president of Norsk Hostfest, and Daryl Somerville, representing the Lee group.

The fair board’s master plan calls for eventually building a large convention center on the fairgrounds where the exposition and dairy barns, Jaycees Building and 4-H Building currently are. The fair board also wants to relocate the road that currently runs by the Pioneer Village museum on the fairgrounds, which would require moving the museum off the fairgrounds.

At a meeting in May, the fair board set a September deadline for the historical society to come up with a relocation plan. However, the historical society’s board contends they are under no obligation to move under the terms of a 1966 contract, which states “the North Dakota State Fair Association will allow the Northwest North Dakota Historical Society to maintain and operate its building located on the fairgrounds.”

Korslien said Wednesday that the fair board wouldn’t expect any of the buildings to be moved for three to four years, but wants the historical society to come up with a moving plan by next month.

The two sides have been in a stalemate and, following the meeting in May, it appeared the dispute could end up in court.

Korslien said Wednesday that, had the disputed land been available to the fair this past summer, it could have been used as additional parking lots, campgrounds, space for RVs or as a location for another free stage. It could potentially also be leased to outside organizations as part of conferences, she said, and would be available for use during Hostfest, too.

“This land is needed, this space is needed,” said Korslien.

Korslien, as well as the representatives of the other organizations at Wednesday’s meeting, said the issue at hand is the need for more land so that the State Fair can continue to grow. Those at the gathering also expressed support for the historical society and said they would like to meet with historical society board members and work out a plan for the museum’s relocation that would benefit both the fair and the historical society. Moving the museum to a new location would allow the village to expand if needed, something that would be difficult at its current home, MacMartin said.

Zimbelman said there might be alternative locations available, such as land owned by the Minot Park District north of Roosevelt Park, or city-owned land not far from the Minot Air Museum, near the Cameron Indoor Tennis Center.

Korslien acknowledged that the State Fair board has not discussed the issue with the historical society board since its May meeting.

Contacted after the gathering by The Minot Daily News, historical society treasurer Bruce Brooks said the historical society cannot comment, since it has not heard any proposals from the State Fair’s board or met with them.

Brooks said his board is willing to meet with anyone, but continue to believe that the museum does not have to move.

“We feel we have a legal claim to be here,” said Brooks.