Fairview American Legion

The American Legion Fair won't be in Millington this year, and organizers of the event are upset at what they see as a snub from the city.

But city leaders say the fair, which was held at the USA Stadium in 2010 and 2011, loses too much money.

Lee Buchschacher, president and chairman of the American Legion Fair Committee, said in the fair's first year, former Mayor Richard Hodges informally agreed to give the group three years to make the event work.

"He said if you can't develop it in three years, it's probably a bad idea," Buchschacher recalled recently.

In its first two years, the fair suffered low attendance (about 5,000 each year) and severe weather, including snow, flooding and storms. Organizers spent $50,000 to put the fair on the first year and $60,000 the next year, and they didn't make a profit.

They planned to try a third time this June but received an e-mail from the city in March denying the request.

Now, they're hoping to work out a deal to have the fair in Covington in October. The fair is to benefit the American Legion, a nonprofit organization for veterans.

Fair organizers confronted the Millington Board of Mayor and Aldermen about the e-mail rejection at a public meeting last week.

"Instead of calling us, instead of having that courtesy, they e-mailed us, and I think that is wrong," said Dave Sienkiewicz, commander of the American Legion Post in Millington.

Sienkiewicz is also upset that in July the city plans to start charging the American Legion $30 per hour to have a picnic near USA Stadium for patients from the veteran's hospital. It has been free in the past.

"I can't fathom why you would charge veterans," Sienkiewicz told the board. "This whole town was built on veterans."

Mayor Linda Carter, who was appointed to replace Hodges when he retired in January, told the American Legion representatives that the city needs to charge for use of its property -- at a reduced rate for veterans -- since it has to cover the costs for bathroom cleanup and supplies. She said the naval base also charges for events.

"We're not trying to make a profit; we're trying to cover costs," Carter said.

At least two people at the meeting stepped forward and offered to pay for the picnic.

The mayor said she made the decision not to have the fair in Millington after reviewing a cost analysis that was not favorable to the event.

Carter said fair organizers offered to pay the city $2,500 to provide various services, including police and fire support, trash pickup and utility services. But it would cost the city about $6,100 to provide those services.

"We cannot continue to have events and lose money on them," Carter said.

The mayor said, in hindsight, she wouldn't have notified them of her decision about the fair by e-mail.

"I feel that the interim mayor, while she probably has no malice, has just been advised poorly," Buchschacher said.

Buchschacher said he believes, with the help of nice weather, the fair will be a hit, wherever it is.

"It could be a blowout," he said. "It's not like some rinky-dink kiddie land. This is a real fair and big deal."

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