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HEART OF STEELE

Putting our hearts into county fair stories
By
Joni Hubred, News Editor
Putting our hearts into county fair stories, scff, owatonna

Imagine, if you will, a 10-foot-by-10-foot, gated enclosure made of steel pipe and set up in a grassy area under a shade tree.

On the grass, someone has spraypainted a grid to create 100 numbered squares.

Thirty years ago, I stood next to one of those enclosures, camera in hand. With about two dozen onlookers, I watched as a man dressed in overalls, a white t-shirt, and a John Deere baseball cap led a docile young cow into the pen and closed the gate behind him.

Then we waited. Eventually, the cow lifted its tail and plopped a pie onto one of the numbered squares, prompting a roar from the crowd.

Someone had just won two hundred bucks.

That unique fundraiser was my introduction to covering county fairs in rural Minnesota. There were other stories, of course, about our local Dairy Princess, 4-Hers and their projects, prize-winning plants and produce, and oh, so many animals.

During the week, I learned how important these events are to the people who attend, who participate, and who make them happen.

When I joined the Steele County Times, I fully expected to write stories about the Steele County Free Fair. I just had no idea how many stories–due well before opening day.

This is not a complaint. Many local folks are passionate and excited about fair week, and it is nothing but fun to share their enthusiasm.

I know now about fair security and the Auto Museum and Steely & Stella and the roughly $7 million the fair pumps into the local economy. I’ve talked to a guy who’s bringing playful otters to the fair this year, and I have read–and re-read–the list of new fair foods.

Next week, I’ll turn in the last of the stories I’m writing for our fair tab. I’ll be honest, I’m a little disappointed about the absence of “cow pie bingo.”

But rest assured, our hearts go into every single story about the Steele County Free Fair. And I look forward to writing more come opening day!

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