Calling for a bigger and better county fair

(Pictured are former students of District 1 who gathered last Thursday: Roger Lindquist, Dorothy (Ridlon) Lindquist, Lawrence James, Sarah (Popilek) Seelen and her daughter, Becky McClain and Tom Brutscher. (080501osh) Staff photo by Joyce Moran)

Senior Day will be Friday. In addition to naming the county’s senior citizens for the year, Lyndon Peterson, a one-man band, will be entertaining.

Other musical entertainment to be offered at the pavilion will be S&S Express on Wednesday, Speak Eesy on Thursday and Alan Gadage & Sundown on Friday. Hours for the last three will be 7 to 11 p.m.

Grandstand shows will feature a truck pull on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., motocross races on Thursday evening at 7, a mud run competition on Friday evening at 7:30 p.m., and the demolition derby on Saturday evening at 7:30.

Of course, the carnival rides, games and food treats will all be there. These midway offerings will be open from 6 to 11 p.m. on Wednesday, from 3 to 11 p.m. on Thursday, from 1 to 11 p.m. on Friday and, from 1 to 11 p.m. on Saturday. Times for using arm bands, which are good for all rides and for all ages, will be from 6 to 11 p.m. on Wednesday, and from 1 to 5 p.m. on Friday.

New at the fair this year will be a booth dedicated to the fair—and a renewal plan for the fair. “The fair board has done a tremendous job keeping the fair alive,” said Dennis Nelson. “It was on its knees, close to bankruptcy and just about to go under. It’s been a battle to just keep it going each year.”

Nelson, originally of Randall, has returned to the area after retiring as an associate chancellor and professor of economics at the University of Minnesota, Duluth. Taking a keen interest in the fair, he began to attend the fair board meetings and has since become a member of the board. “I first brought exhibits to the fair back in 1938,” he said. “I always enjoyed it. But, in my opinion, since the 90s, the fair has gone downhill. The old fairgrounds was ‘the fair.’ Now, with the new fairgrounds, the old timers have lost interest. Exhibits of corn and wheat, as well as of garden produce and flowers, have all decreased over the years.”

Continuing, Nelson recalled that county fairs were originally created as agricultural expositions where farmers and townspeople alike could display their products and get together for visits. “It used to be the biggest event in the county,” he related. “For some, it was the only time in the year that they got to see their neighbors. We’ve lost that. Car racing is not the fair. I’m not against car races. I guess they bring in money. But, you can have them anytime.”

Nelson, therefore, has put together a five-year renewal plan for the county fair. Goals set down include increasing attendance, increasing livestock and non-livestock exhibitions, increasing business participations, the development of an old (antique) machinery hill and an old farmstead and the restoration of an old one-room school house.

The school house planned for restoration and placement at the fairgrounds is presently sitting at the Pete and June Brutscher farm in Freedhem. Named District 1, it was the first country school established in the county. As mandated by the state, it, along with all the other country schools in the state, was closed in 1971. While originally accepted by the Morrison County Historical Society, officials later had to turn down its acceptance and it was moved to the Brutscher farm. While it will need some fixing, the Brutschers say its desks and black boards are still intact and inside the building.

“But, we’re going to need help—and from a lot of different people,” continued Nelson. Examples of help he gave included carpenters, painters, mechanics to restore the old machinery, people to assist with the moving of buildings and machinery, committee members to encourage exhibitors and participants, people to work on the landscaping and beautification of the grounds and people willing to donate artifacts.

“We want to renew the fair,” said Nelson. “To revitalize it. There’s a lot to be gained here.”

He concluded by inviting everyone who attends this year’s fair to “visit the fair booth, pick up the renewal plan and sign up to help.”

Wilson, meanwhile, has announced he will be retiring from the board at the end of the year. “It’s not that I’m upset with anything,” he said. “It’s just that I’ve been with it for 15 years and, it’s time someone else takes the reins.”

The president concluded by inviting everyone out to this year’s fair. “Everything is ready to go. Hopefully, we’ll have good weather.”

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