Herald JournalHerald Journal, June 23, 2003

No carnival at Longhorn Days

By Ryan Gueningsman

Many may have noticed the absence of a long-time feature at Longhorn Days in Lester Prairie last weekend ­ the carnival.

There was a substantial amount of community reaction to the issue, and apparent conflict between the city and members of the Longhorn Days committee. This resulted in several opinions on why the carnival was not in town last weekend.

The city's point of view:

"With the challenges we've had with previous carnivals ­ wear and tear on the park, having to close the street, and the length of the park grass, we wanted to get everything done early, and get all the perimeters laid out," said Lester Prairie Mayor Eric Angvall.

In the past, the carnival has come early in the week of Longhorn Days for set-up purposes. Last Monday morning, Carmen Schultz of the Longhorn Days committee received a call from the carnival saying that they had to come in that evening to begin set-up in order to meet the state's electrical inspector's deadline of Wednesday ­ or it would not be coming at all; it would go directly to its next stop at Motley. Schultz called the city.

In order to get an answer right away, there were two options that the city had, Angvall said. A special city council meeting could have been arranged, and would have taken place Thursday. The law stated that there is a three-day wait in order to let the public know of the meeting.

The second thing the city tried was contacting each council member to get his or her opinion on it, Angvall said. "We didn't talk directly to the carnival people," he said. "There was no other Longhorn Days committee correspondence with the city besides that first phone call."

Four of the five council members were reached, with two in favor of letting them come in, and two in favor of them not coming in.

"It was a tied vote at the end of the day, and the city can't overrule that," Angvall said. "The city can't react that fast ­ no government is designed to react that fast."

"The council does not want to alienate volunteers," Angvall said. "It's not putting the blame on the Longhorn Days committee, or upset with them.

"We have to balance the needs of everybody."

This should not be a cry to boycott the other events, Angvall said. Rather, it should be a cry for more people to get involved, and join the committee.

"It's a wonderful event for the city," Angvall said. "But they could sure use some more volunteers to help them."

The Longhorn Days committee's point of view:

"For the past nine years, everything comes in on Monday," said Longhorn Days committee chairman Greg Gatz. "They get done in other towns, and need some place to go."

This year, the city said that no one could come in until Wednesday ­ and that is the same day the state electrical inspector said he could be there, Gatz said. That meant that there would not be enough time for proper set-up.

"That's when accidents happen," Gatz said the carnival owner said. "The council would not give in and let them come in Monday night, so the carnival said they were getting sick of dealing with this issue for the past years, decided not to come, and asked Longhorn Days not to call them for next year."

Not having the carnival there is taking away a lot of revenue from the city, in addition to Longhorn Days, which donates profits to the Lester Prairie Fire Department Relief Association, Gatz said.

From the carnival itself, Longhorn Days received 25 percent of advance sales, and 20 percent of sales during the event, Gatz said.

"Parents bring their kids to the rides, then they go buy food and drinks ­ they're not going to do that this year," Gatz said.

"All the way around, it's going to hurt us," he said. Thursday afternoon "Hopefully the bands will make up for it."

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