MUSCATINE — Leaning against the door of his blue 2007 Pontiac Grand Prix, Doug Holliday can catalog the potential parking in Downtown West Liberty.
“Well of course you got all that space downtown,” Holliday said. “But you also got plenty right there along the cemetery. I mean it’s out there.”
Holliday, 63, said he has been interested in the West Liberty Fairground for just about all his life. In the 1960s, he showed hogs and cattle each year.
“I remember when the fair here was bigger than the one in Mississippi Valley,” Holliday said. “You could say the fairgrounds are a passion of mine.”
With fair attendance down, he was surprised to hear that the Muscatine County Fair Board had rejected West Liberty Foods offer for land. The parcel is a grassy plot that the Fair Board bought in 1988 for parking and possible expansion. It is a block east of South Walnut Street, close to West Liberty Foods’ parking lot.
“I’m not crazy about them getting rid of (fairground) land,” Holliday said. “But if (West Liberty Foods) can’t build here and expand on their company that opens them to looking elsewhere. Once that happens and other states get involved (in the competition). …There is no way around. They (West Liberty Foods) have a big impact around here.”
According to Holliday, the parcel is used for excess parking during the week of the Muscatine County Fair’s peak days. With parking available elsewhere, he was unconvinced about the utility of holding onto the land.
A call to the Muscatine County Fair Board for comment was not returned by press time.
Lawrence McNaul, West Liberty’s city manager, said parking came up in talks with West Liberty Foods, and other arrangements are on the table should the Muscatine County Fair Board decide to come to the table.
“I told them (West Liberty Foods) early on that a concern was going to be parking,” McNaul said. “They’ve talked about being willing to do offsite parking for patrons of the fair or even busing employees in so that the fairground could use the West Liberty Foods parking lot for the week of the fair.”
While the City of West Liberty does not own buses, McNaul said they have sites that could add additional parking for the fairground.
“(West Liberty Foods) is open to parking suggestions,” McNaul said. “It will be a combination of whatever we sit down and agree to. Unfortunately, we just never got to that point.”