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New to the Crow Wing County Fair: A beer garden ... minus the alcohol

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Coming soon to the Crow Wing County Fair – a new beer garden!

Just one catch ... there won't be any alcohol on sale.

Fair organizers looking to come up with an "innovative" workaround to the ban on alcohol sales at the June 2-6 festival revealed their solution Tuesday – a non-alcoholic beer garden.

Bizarrely, despite it not selling alcoholic drinks, you'll still need to be 21 to enter the beer garden, fair president Gary Doucette told the Crow Wing County Board on Tuesday.

He said he came up with the idea as he was falling asleep and heard in the background an alcohol-free beer commercial.

He told the Brainerd Dispatch that some might think it's a "bonehead idea," but he believes it could generate extra interest in the fair.

"I think it will pique a lot of people's attention. ... Maybe we'll create a fad here in Crow Wing County," he said.

First of its kind in Minnesota

Doucette thinks it will be the first attraction of its kind in Minnesota, with one board member referring to him as a "trailblazer" during Tuesday's meeting.

"I think it's brilliant," said commissioner Rachel Reabe Nystrom at the meeting. "I think it will put the Crow Wing County Fair on the map."

Not everyone agreed. Commissioner Paul Thiede registered his opposition to the plan (although Doucette doesn't have to ask for permission to open the beer garden as there's no alcohol involved), saying allowing a non-alcoholic beer garden could start the fair down a slippery slope.

Attempts have been made in recent years to overturn the ban on alcohol sales at the fair, with organizers arguing it would raise the funds they need to carry out infrastructure improvements.

The Crow Wing County Fair Association actually has a license to sell 3.2 percent proof alcohol, which was renewed last month on 360 days of the year. The five days it's not allowed to sell alcohol ... is during the festival, according to agenda documents.

MPR reported the reason why the county board won't allow alcohol sales at the fair is because "a lot of people in Crow Wing County have lost loved ones to alcohol."

Commissioner Thiede told a board meeting last month that the decision to keep it as one of the few dry fairs in the state is because it's "not just about revenue, it's about lives."

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