By Jeff Wagner

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — One of the founding family members of the original cheese curds vendor at the Minnesota State Fair is determined to have their booth running in 2017.

Earlier this month, we told you how the fair and the cheesy staple are parting ways.

Tom Mueller — the son of one of the original owners — tried to take over the business, but fair officials say the request to transfer ownership was filed too late and incorrectly.

In an effort to change fair officials’ minds, he wrote an open letter to them.

It starts by saying: “Can you imagine a Minnesota State Fair without cheese curds? Neither can I, but that’s how it was before my family fried up the very first batch there in 1975.”

His family made the fried food famous on the fairgrounds. Now, some 2.6 million cheese curds are consumed each year through all of the different vendors. But now Mueller’s family business, which makes up 20 percent of all cheese curds sales, won’t be there later this summer.

His letter went on to say: “Unfortunately you’ve decided we can’t do that. You wrote to me on April 5, more than a year after I submitted my application, to continue running our family stand, and said that closing our business and forcing us off the fairgrounds is in the best interest of the state fair and guests.”

The yellow booth bearing its name was at the fairgrounds Tuesday, but fair officials say it’s highly likely it’ll be gone by the time fairgoers come marching down Dan Patch this August.

“No decision is an easy decision, and when there are as many layers to a situation as there are to this one, that makes it even more difficult,” fair general manager Jerry Hammer said.

He said Mueller didn’t file the proper paperwork in time and that it only became more complicated because Mueller’s parents shared ownership of the business with another family.

“All the decisions we make, whatever moves we make, it’s all designed for what’s best for everybody in mind,” Hammer said.

“That’s just not accurate,” said Mueller. “It’s wrong, and not only are they killing a tradition, but they’re misleading the public.”

Mueller also suggests they take a look at social media, where loyal cheese curd customers have been pushing to the fair to allow the booth back in this year. Using #SaveTheCurds, designed by Mueller, they’re hoping to change a decision they haven’t been able to stomach.

“We’re really passionate, we would love to keep this tradition going, not only for our family but for the fair public that loves it so much,” said Mueller.

If his family business can’t return in 2017, he said he’d be open to having a conversation with fair officials about 2018. However, he still feels his family business has been treated unfairly.

“The fair belongs to the public and I think it should be transparent to the public and accountable to the public,” he said of how the fair picks and chooses which vendors stay and go.


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