Clare County Review & Marion Press News

Payment issues, lack of attendance scar Marion Fair

Matt Mohr, the Fair Board President, explains to the board and the audience that a loan from Horizon Bank is required to remain financially viable.
VFW Auxiliary member Amy Simons and her daughter TeAnna worry about the future of the Marion Fair.

By Genine Hopkins

After this year’s Marion Fair ended on Saturday, June 15, 2024, concerned citizens and some concerned Fair Board members brought up serious concerns about how the finances were handled for the fair. This included a cancellation of a check issued to HB Concerts, INC for around $40,000, as well as disputes about sponsorships, and an incident that occurred on fair property during the fair. It should be noted the one item agreed upon and voted to approve by the board was to move forward on a loan from Horizon Bank for around $87,000.
Most of the citizens in attendance were most concerned about the issues with cancelled checks and the potential repercussions for that action. It was alleged by one board member that prior to the fair, there was roughly $20,000 in the account to use toward the fair and it appeared that the board was counting on the take at the gate to make up the funds to pay for the entertainment.
When pressed to produce a copy of the contract with HB Concerts, INC, including the exact cost of the entertainment, Matt Mohr produced a four-page contract that was later revealed to be an Agreement, that did not specify cost, from HB Concerts, INC. Also questioned was the Circus agreement included a promise that if proceeds exceeded $10,000, the Board would be provided 25% of the take; unfortunately, sales did not reach that sum so the Fair’s compensation was in question.
The scheduled act -Colt Ford- had health issues and cancelled so the board, allegedly without approval from the full board, booked country singer Aaron Watson, Little Texas, Freshwater Roots, and Dusty Leigh; Leigh’s booking fee was said to only be $500. It remains unclear if the other talent was paid directly, something that was alluded to several times over the course of the meeting, or if they were owed money through HB Concerts, INC. It was also brought up that there were complaints of refunds not being issued to ticketholders who purchased the Colt Ford concert tickets. These accusations were denied by several board members, including Horseshoe Bar owner, Matt Mohr, who is the board’s President.
“We took the blanket off,” he stated, meaning they allowed and opened up the refund option for those who purchased tickets before Ford’s cancellation.
Citizens stated there were issues with etix, the company that processed the tickets for the show, and that they were told to contact the Fair Board directly. Treasurer Coral Johnson asked for contact information so they could continue the process of making sure refunds were provided.
Residents were highly concerned about the legalities of stopping payment on the check to HB Concerts, INC, as well as concerned about how the entire fiasco will hurt Marion’s reputation. Board members who stated they were concerned about liability, including Shawn Baldwin, owner of Motion Pro Performance and Towing LLC, who expressed how this could potentially harm his business.
While the Marion Fair Board has endured scandals over its history, it has somehow always recovered. Those in attendance from the community were very distressed, including VFW Auxiliary member Amy Simon, who coordinated the Craft Show for the Fair.
“We don’t need our little town of Marion scarred,” she told the Board, “We don’t need this black mark on our reputation.”
Another issue was the attendance, which was down significantly. Some board members felt the community wasn’t supportive enough of the Fair, but there were concessions due to the lack of some traditional rides, like the Ferris Wheel, which did not pass inspection and never opened with the remainder of the rides. Jacob Stieg, from MSU-E Osceola County, said that fair attendance is down year over year. Simon said while the rides this year were more for kids under 10, she was happy about the pricing.
“The bracelets were $10 for kids,” Simons told the Board, “That made it much better for families. My grandkids were there every day and enjoyed themselves a lot!”
The final issue involved the Osceola County Sheriff’s Department. A legally disabled young man, who wandered away from his family during the Fair, were distressed to learn that the young man was being detained, awaiting response from the Sheriff’s Department, and that he was going to be arrested for trespassing on fair property. The exchange between the attendees and conversation after the board meeting allege that one person either working or volunteering for the fair, remarked that the young man was a drug addict, which the mother and several other attendees deny, stating that the man was not using drugs and needs constant help.
In any case, when the mother saw her son being detained, she told Mohr – who was present on scene at the time – that she had come for her son to take him home. She alleges Mohr refused to allow her to take him and that Mohr told her to “keep her son on a shorter leash.” It is not clear whether the young man was charged with any violation or whether he spent the night in jail or was even eventually arrested, as the conversation returned to the board and the financials.
If developments continue to occur, or if any cases result from the board’s cancellation of the payment to HB Concerts, INC, the Marion Press will provide updates.

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