Grandstand burn marks end of an era

Published 5:15 pm Saturday, February 2, 2013

Flames engulf the grandstands at the Mower County Fairgrounds Saturday morning as a section of the roof caves in. The grandstands were finally burned after months of waiting.

Decades of history went up in flame Saturday at the Mower County fairgrounds.

A number of onlookers who were allowed into the fairgrounds by the Austin Fire Department watch the grandstands at the Mower County Fairgrounds as they burned Saturday.

After months of discussion, the Austin Fire Department and about 10 local fire departments burned down the fairground’s condemned grandstand Saturday morning.

“It’s the end of an era and the beginning of a new one,” Commissioner Jerry Reinartz said.

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Fair Board Director Neal Anderson and State Sen. Dan Sparks both described the day as bittersweet.

After training exercises in the morning, firefighters started the entire structure on fire around 10:30 a.m.

Only a handful of people were allowed inside the fairgrounds during the demolition, and the small crowd huddled more than 150 feet back from the grandstand to watch the blaze. At the peak of the fire, the heat from the fire forced the group move back further because of the heat.

“We had to back up at first,” Reinartz said.

While law enforcement closed the gates, dozens of cars lined the north and south sides of the fairgrounds to watch the demolition from their cars. A steady stream of vehicles moved slowly down 12th Street Southwest to watch the blaze.

By 11 a.m., most of the roof had collapsed, and the structure was reduced to a series of beams with tin from the roof folded over them. The structure was almost entirely down before noon, and an excavator was used to knock down the remaining beams.


Look to Monday’s Herald for full coverage of the grandstand demolition.