The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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February 14, 2014

County fair means more than location

As I like to recall it now, it was indeed a blue ribbon I won with my patented homemade brownies. Digging through old boxes of hit and miss accomplishments instead may reveal that it was in-fact a “thanks for trying” conciliation ribbon afforded to participants but I will nonetheless bask in the supposition that my brownies where the very best in all of Blue Earth County.

As a member of the Judson Peg-Away 4-H Club, my responsibility was not to be the club baker; rather I, along with the likes of Paul “Dusty” Adermann, Matt “Helmer” Hudson and others where pressed to lead our chapter past powerhouses such as the Cambria Climbers, Kato Klippers or our arch-nemesis, the New Horizons at the annual 4-H Club Blue Earth County Fair “brawl to end it all” softball tilt.

It is interesting to me in retrospect to reflect on how much enjoyment I have received at our county fair. I have missed perhaps a few fairs over the past 35 years or so, usually because of some conflict. It is not the Bruce Springsteen penned angst of “Glory Days” that beckon me back to that field canvassed by spectacular oak trees near the river, it is the deep seeded feeling I have toward the many people and families who helped shape the prisms and contexts through which I see much of life; people I often associate with “the fair.”

There is something special about life on the farm to me. The commitment and structure I admire greatly with an increasingly vanishing world of the “family farm” have been on exhibit for all who would go to the fair. Perhaps had I not spent many hot summer days pulling cockleburs, detasseling corn and baling hay, I may not be so contemplative about this but the facts are that some of the most level-headed, earnest and wise people I have had the pleasure to encounter are direct descendants of those who have owned or themselves own bib overalls.

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