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The Youth Fair: Thriving, serving, enduring

 

The Miami-Dade County Youth Fair is with us again, providing fun, food, entertainment and a bit of Americana to hundreds of thousands of local residents. In our 43rd year at Tamiami Park and 63rd year overall, the Fair will showcase 27,000 displays from schoolchildren, give $350,000 in scholarships and student prizes, provide free admission to hundreds of thousands of students and allow our guests to create memories they will carry throughout their lives. The Fair is a charity that exists solely for the public benefit in Miami-Dade.

But if Florida International University has its way, the Fair would be gone. Gone to a smaller and unusable space. Gone to a remote location inaccessible to a vast majority of our visitors. Perhaps, just plain gone.

FIU wants the Fair out so it can expand one of its seven campuses. It wants the people of Miami-Dade to pay for the estimated $230 million cost through a new half-penny sales tax, and to pass a referendum turning over public parkland to the university.

The Youth Fair is happy in its home. Under our lease with Miami-Dade County that goes through at least 2040, the county can relocate the Fair by securing an equal or better site that is acceptable to the Fair’s directors and reimbursing us for our contributions to the park system and the infrastructure we have built. The Fairgrounds are the second-largest convention space in the county.

FIU believes its desire for a “university village” is more important than The Youth Fair, the other 70 events we host each year and the 900,000 people attending our events. It would be far cheaper for the university to expand elsewhere. At $230 million for 86 acres, there are sure to be multiple landowners who will be glad to sell FIU land at $2.67 million per acre.

Lately, FIU’s zealotry has intensified, asking our directors to be neutral and overlook their fiduciary responsibility to the Fair. It knows full well of our events, not the “17 or 18 days a year” that president Mark Rosenberg told the Herald. Fairs are thriving, and we saw more than a 20-percent attendance increase in 2013, a fact FIU knows and that clearly belies the statement by an FIU executive to the Herald that “Fairs are kind of dying out.” We are up another 7 percent so far this year.

While FIU attempts to get rid of the Youth Fair, we will continue to fulfill our mission to the people of Miami-Dade and help our children fulfill their dreams.

Robert Hohenstein, president and CEO, Miami-Dade County Youth Fair & Exposition, Miami

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