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Arizona State Fair officials remain happy with location

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PHOENIX -- Opening weekend of the Arizona State Fair is over, and while this year's fair continues, there remain questions whether the fair can grow and have a future at its site near downtown.

The 96 acres of Arizona State Fairgrounds are located at the corner of McDowell Road and Grand and 19th avenues. The location is bounded by thousands of homes and the public Encanto Golf Course.

State Fair Assistant Executive Director Christy Walsh said the size of the fairgrounds has not been a problem. "We are one of the highest-attended state fairs on the smallest pieces of land," Walsh said. "Every inch of our grounds is utilized and maximized. We do as much as we can with the space that we have."

The 128-year-old Arizona State Fair started as the Arizona Territorial Fair in November 1884. The fairgrounds were located near the Salt River, west of Central Avenue. They were destroyed when the river flooded in 1891.

The Arizona Territorial Fair Association was formed to revive the fair, and purchased the current location for $9,200 in 1905.

Its acreage is small compared with other state fairs that are on around 300 acres. In 2003, the Phoenix Planning Department and the Encanto Village planning committee explored the idea of moving the fairgrounds and using that land to expand the golf course.

The city could not afford the $50 million that it would have take to move the fair.

Walsh said that fair officials would love to have more room for expansion, but there's an advantage to keeping the fair where it is.

"The beauty of our location is that we're right between Interstates 10 and 17, so it's very easily accessed from all sides of the Valley," she said. "We're so close to downtown that it really represents the heart of the state."

The fair, which is closed Mondays and Tuesdays, runs through Nov. 3.

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I live in north Phoenix with my wife Rene' and my son Devin.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: My Dad took me to see Jimmy Dean at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in the 1960's. It was before the Coliseum was built. The only thing I remember is Jimmy Dean singing his big hit "Big Bad John."

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Shiloh Community Church in Phoenix. Devin is a high school student at Scottsdale Christian Academy. He plays on the baseball, football, and basketball teams and sings in the choir. Obviously, we keep busy trying to go to all his events! We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and long road trips. We like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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