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All for Saving the Original Minnesota State Fair Curds, Say Aye, Better Yet . . . #s and @s

Posted in Advertising, Agreements, Articles, Branding, Contracts, Food, Marketing, Social Media, Trademarks

cheese_curds_aaron_keller

When Aaron Keller of Capsule deeply cares about an issue (in a deeply fried kind of way), it’s hard not to stand up, pay attention, and follow instructions, especially when his picture of golden little nuggetized cheese curds are involved and the Minnesota State Fair is at stake.

As you might have discerned over the years, yours truly has been known to visit the Minnesota State Fair, perhaps not more than the most rabid of fans (our next door neighbors), but far more than the most average of fans or those with only tepid enthusiasm for said Fair.

Indeed, as an added benefit to the amazing culinary experience at the Fair, a colorful multitude of IP content from the Minnesota State Fair has inspired my keyboard over the years, including these little gems about the Tilt-a-Whirl trademark and Lulu’s (not the lemon in case you wonder).

Yet, before today, cheese curds have been uttered only once before on these pages, by our friend Brent Carlson-Lee of Eli’s Donut Burgers fame, but with Aaron Keller’s call to sign a petition (which I did) and his social media battle cry to #savethecurds, today rightly makes twice.

Truth be told, the entire category of cheese curds is not in question at the Fair, only one of the several curd vendors, but most importantly the original pioneer and cheese curd leader — in fact, after due testing, the one and only curd my family loyally patronizes multiple times each year.

So, to be told, no worries, you can still find cheese curds at the Fair, is like saying to Coke lovers, never mind your unwavering brand preference, you can still find Pepsi. Let’s face it, we live in a pretty divided world, so eliminating the curd pioneer is far more than a shoulder shrug.

Reminds me of when the Minnesota State Fair gave Porky’s Delight the boot more than a decade ago. I’ve never really forgiven them, having said that, I can’t say I’ve boycotted the Fair since then either, but the replacement pork chop stand has never measured up to my taste buds.

Thank goodness Porky’s Delight seasoning is readily available for those willing and able to bring-your-own-pork-and-grill, to do-it-yourself. Sadly, I’m not sure that the cheese curd recipe from the Original Deep Fried Cheese Curds vendor, as good as it is, presents the same opportunity to the stunned Mueller Family. Perhaps this explains the family’s interest in keeping the tradition alive at the Fair? Hopefully the Fair officials will do the right thing and #savethecurds.

In terms of the legal aspects of the issue, not having seen the agreements between the Fair and vendors, I’m not pretending to know the details of the legal terms governing the matter here, but instincts tell me that the Fair probably holds most of the cards, especially with one-sided terms like these (taken from the online 2017 Concession Manual):

“State Fair license agreements, any portion(s) thereof, as well as the privileges, duties, responsibilities, obligations and interests granted therein, may not be assigned, sublet, sold, transferred, devised by will, hypothecated or otherwise disposed of, except with the written consent of the Minnesota State Fair; nor may licensees subcontract or sublet space or license privileges to any other person or firm. Obligations provided for in said licenses, including, but not limited to, payments for insurance, utilities and/or special services, shall remain the obligation of the initial licensee regardless of approved assignment.”

But, do they really hold all of the cards? Perhaps others can weigh in here who have relevant knowledge to share on the details of the typical governing agreements.

For example, did anyone notice in the letter denying the license application to Tom Mueller, Richard Mueller’s son, that the previous license holder for the space appeared to be a corporation (Muskar, Inc.)? To the extent this language from the 2017 Concession Manual governed the license with Muskar, Inc., and to avoid the transfer prohibition above without Fair consent, why couldn’t the corporation have designated a new Principal for the same corporation and licensee to carry on operations at the Original Deep Fried Cheese Curds stand?

“Licenses are issued to, and in the name of, a company/corporation, organization, institution, agency or individual (of legal age) with a designated principal (i.e. owner, president, C.E.O. or executive director) and secondary agent (i.e. secretary, manager, division/department head or assistant). The principal, having primary legal and decision-making authority and responsibility, must sign the exhibit or concession license and all related business documents. In the absence of the principal for any reason, e.g., death, inability or unwillingness to continue as the principal, the license becomes null and void. The agent must be authorized by the principal and may speak for and conduct day to day exhibit or concession business on behalf of the licensee on site, but may not execute (sign) a license on behalf of the principal. Also, in the absence of a principal for any reason, e.g., death, inability or unwillingness to serve as principal, the agent does not ascend to become principal and the license becomes null and void.”

Back to the brand aspect of the issue, even if the Fair holds the legal cards on this one, I’d suggest we launch a new hashtag: #savethecurdcompetition (since the alternative, Mouse Trap Cheese Curds, needs some real competition at the Minnesota State Fair, in my opinion).