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North Dakota State Fair canceled due to flooding

Dike work began June 20 to protect the North Dakota State Fair Center in Minot. (AP Photo/Minot Daily News)

MINOT, N.D. - Saturday night was a tough one for Ranae Korslien.

The manager of the North Dakota State Fair said she was "worn out from the tears" after the state fair board decided this year's event would have to be canceled. This is the first time a state fair has been canceled since Minot began hosting it in 1965.

"It's tough on the heart and tough on the checkbook," Korslien told The Forum on Sunday. "We did everything we could to make this year's fair a reality. Sadly, the circumstances have changed. We are left with no choice."

Officials made their decision based on a revised hydrograph from the National Weather Service, which showed waters from the flooding Souris (Mouse) River weren't receding as quickly as anticipated.

The latest culprit was a Friday night downpour, which dumped about an inch of rain in Minot and 5 inches of rain north of town. "And of course, all that rain dumps into the Mouse River," Korslien said.

Water remains on the fairgrounds; in fact, when Korslien and another employee drove toward the Midway area this weekend, water leaked into the doors and ran over the floorboards of the pickup.

Minot Mayor Curt Zimbelman said the cancellation was a sad but necessary step.

"I feel disappointment in that we're not going to have a fair but also a little relief for the pressure it would have put on the community," Zimbelman said.

The mayor said the city would have struggled to host the fair this year because of problems like lack of housing.

"It's very disappointing, but I think the people of North Dakota will understand," he said.

The cancellation will also place another financial strain on the flood-ravaged community. Although Korslien didn't have exact numbers, she said fairgoers typically pump "millions" annually into the Magic City. The grandstand shows alone generate "a couple of million," she added.

Officials will have to refund any tickets already purchased for fair shows, and Korslien says she's glad her staff had just installed a new system, which should expedite that process. People who paid with credit cards should see credits on their statements by July 31, she added.

In spite of this latest disappointment, Korslien was already searching for silver linings. She told of fair employees who worked days on end monitoring dikes and pumps to successfully keep the $75 million State Fair Center and just-built, $15 million Fair Grandstand dry.

She also raved about the dedication of her 30 employees - 13 of whom were flooded out of their own homes.

And she spoke optimistically of next year's fair being the best yet. "We just have to pull our bootstraps back up and figure out what we're going to do, and we'll be OK," she said. "So come out next year and see how nice it'll be."