GONZALES, La. (AP) — After more than 50 years of hosting the Greater Baton Rouge State Fair in Louisiana's capital city, organizers plan to move it to neighboring Ascension Parish — at least temporarily.
Cliff Barton, president of the Greater Baton Rouge State Fair Corporation, said the 2022 fair will move to the Lamar Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales, news outlets reported. He said a major construction project set to take place this year at its regular location at the Fairgrounds in Baton Rouge forced organizers to find a new spot.
Organizers said the construction means they couldn’t hold the fair there this year, nor possibly the following year in 2023.
“It’s a whole new ball game. As I told my board one night, we have a blank canvas and we’re going to paint it. We just don’t know how yet,” Barton said.
Barton said moving to the Lamar Dixon Expo Center will “allow us to do things we've never done before.”
"We can move into rodeos. We can do all kinds of things related to agriculture, and as a state fair, we have to do that,” Barton said.
Still, there will be some challenges.
The entrance to the Expo Center is at an intersection with no lights that will have to facilitate around 100,000 attendees.
“It’s going to be a task, no doubt about it. We realize, from the law enforcement standpoint, as far as traffic goes, we know it’s going to be one hell of a task, but can we do it? Of course, we can do it! We got two wonderful agencies, two professional agencies that know what to do about traffic,” Gonzales Mayor Barney Arceneaux said.
Barton said traffic was his biggest concern before they landed the Expo Center.
“I'll be honest with you, it's going to be a mess the first year up to a certain extent, but each year it's going to get better. It's just going to take some doing,” he said.
The fair's current location at the BREC Airline Highway Park/Fairgrounds has hosted the event since 1973. At a news conference Monday announcing the move, Barton didn’t shut the door on a return to Baton Rouge.
“I would never say never,” Barton said. “We will just see. If it works down here, I think we’ve found a home.”
The fair began in 1965 and this year will host its 55th event in its 57-year history. The fair was canceled in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit and in 2020 because of COVID-19.
The first day of the 2022 fair is Oct. 27.