by Toby Sells
Fair president Michael Doyle told members of the Memphis City Council Tuesday that attendance numbers for the Fair have been up over the past few years at its new home at the Landers Center in Southaven, but “we would love to come home to Memphis, our home for 157 years.”
Doyle said the Fair board is now actively looking for 100 acres in Memphis or Shelby County and that the site should have plenty of asphalt and grass and access to electricity and water. The board would need to build an office complex and exhibit halls on the site. The board will soon start a capital campaign to move the fair but a final fund-raising goal is not yet known.
“So, if (the city council) doesn’t know, then imagine what the public thinks,” Doyle said. “They think we got mad and packed up our ferris wheel and left. But we fought and scraped and lost.”
Doyle said "no one truly knows why" the fair was asked to leave but that "we were told to leave our home during the previous administration."
Council member Jim Strickland said the move “didn’t make any sense to me” but said hosting an event that would bring hundreds of thousands would have any city “chomping at the bit.”
Doyle said the fair’s peak attendance in Memphis was about 550,000 and that attendance had dwindled to about 350,000 in its last year here. Attendance was up nearly 19 percent last year over the previous year at the fair in Southaven, with a total attendance of nearly 85,000.