Stoughton Fair officials worry Mandt Park Master Plan could impact their event

A large recreation expansion project in Stoughton is causing concern for farmers who use nearby land for their annual fair.
Published: May. 28, 2022 at 10:27 PM CDT
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STOUGHTON, Wis. (WMTV) - Stoughton Fair organizers and participants are concerned the Yahara River Park Project inspired Mandt Park Mater Plan could ruin the annual fair.

Stoughton Fair vice president Joe Conant said they lease most of their land from the City of Stoughton so there isn’t a lot of action he can take.

He is worried the project’s new parking lot will not allow the carnival to take place at its usual spot.

”When they go to phase three, which is the parking lot, we will no longer be able to put on a fair because of the fact we will not have the carnival to supplement the revenue,” Conant said.

Fair participant Sheryl Theobald uses the grounds for a pig show during Memorial Day weekend. She said the new layout would reduce their building space and traffic flow.

”If that space is eliminated we can no longer utilize this facility. We will have to look into moving our show to another spot,” Theobald said. ”It saddens me to think that we might lose out on the opportunity to use a facility like this especially if it turns into the concrete jungle. We have that in Madison we don’t need that in Stoughton.”

Conant said he is open to discussing different options with the City of Stoughton Parks and Recreation Department.

”The city council has voted this is the way they want it,” Conant said. “I want to work with them. I’ve wanted to work with them forever. I believe that that’s how you think outside the box to get things done. “

At previous meetings, parks and recreation director Dan Glynn said the new parking lot would improve parking for the fair.

”I think this creates more open space area and parking for the fair for sure,” Glynn said. “So… One of the things they need is more parking. They’ve always said they needed more parking… They could obviously setup for rides and things like that.”

Conant maintains the current plans will not work, but acknowledged it’s challenging to find common ground with a complicated project.

”In ten years if that’s a flourishing event then I look like the dumb one,” Conant said. ”It’s just impossible to make work with their plans the way they have it as it is now.”

Glynn sent NBC 15 the following statement:

Mandt Park, which houses the fairgrounds, is underutilized. It is one of two community parks that the City owns and the way the infrastructure is laid out in the park limits the use. To make better use of the park, a master planning process for the park was undertaken in 2019 and adopted with a 12-0 vote by City Council in 2021.

The City hired MSA to complete the master plan due to their experience working on fairgrounds and water-fronts. The Stoughton Fair Board was identified as a stakeholder group and were interviewed by MSA during the planning process. The Fair Board communicated that they would like more year-round events, so four sea-son buildings were proposed for the fair grounds. Additionally, MSA observed the Fair event in 2019 which included drone photos on how the midway was setup and vehicles were parked.

It was brought to our attention at a later meeting with Fair Board members that three barns were needed to house the different animals and that the Fair did not have enough funds to construct four season buildings. Later meetings discovered that the Fair does not have a strategic plan or budget for capital improvements. The City has offered to get them connected to UW-Extension so that these items could be completed, but to date the Fair has declined.

This past November the 30% design for the first phase of the park improvements was initiated. The first phase of the park improvements include a new roadway system through the park, restroom facility, removal of an underutilized softball diamond, removal of a roadway parallel to the Yahara River which will be replaced by a pedestrian trail and river access sites. Fair Board members participated in three meetings with the design engineer during this design phase. A new concern about traffic patterns was brought to our attention by Fair Board members. To accommodate the traffic patterns, the design for the parking includes wide turn radiuses to accommodate Fair vehicles. We will be meeting with the Fair as the design progresses to ensure their needs are being accommodated.

With that said, the River Park and Mandt Park improvements are two separate issues and shouldn’t be comingled. The River Park will bring more visitors to the area which should increase business for the Fair. Additionally, the lease agreement the Fair holds

Dan Glynn, Stoughton Parks and Recreation Director

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