… And the top three reasons for going to the fair?

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 11, 2000

In two hours yesterday, 1,400 people walked into the Mower County Fair.

Friday, August 11, 2000

In two hours yesterday, 1,400 people walked into the Mower County Fair. I suspect at least a third of them were pushing strollers; the other two thirds were either pushing 50 or under 12.

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What draws them there? Is it the Zipper? The pony ride? The $5 gyros that dribble down your shirt? The lure of brass instruments or the chance to see farm animals close up? The historical society’s many exhibits or the Tom Thumb doughnuts?

I go to take abuse. Usually I work the newspaper’s fair booth, that’s where I collect a usually equal number of compliments and zingers – both are appreciated.

Like the guy who told me to expect a letter about last week’s column on prostitution, nude dancing and the city.

"Don’t take away the flowers," he said. "They’re the only thing around here that doesn’t smell like SPAM."

I hadn’t thought of it that way. He was right.

But enough about me and the affairs of the city. What I was after was far more important.

What I wanted to know Wednesday is why other people go to the fair.

"To eat and see the people," was Steve Wright’s reply. "I see people here I haven’t seen in ages. Like our son, Isaiah.

His wife Barb adds the fine art exhibits to the list and there it is. My research is done. They’ve just handed me the top three reasons grown-up people go to the Mower County Fair:

1. Food, Food, Food

2. Socializing

3. Exhibits

"I just come to eat the food," Jessica Lessard says.

Lessard is a traditionalist. Pronto pups and lemonade for her. Her partner on the bench, Doug Saxton, says he’ll eat any and all fair food. Saxton is a fair-food liberal.

Exhibits cover a range of categories. Photographs, models, vegetables, sheep, horses, paintings, sewing, the entire back row of buildings on the fairgrounds.

The 4-H exhibits and competitions are top billing for many at the fair: just ask Loren and Louise Monson of LeRoy. They come to see grandchildren Sarah and Mitch Lunning "show in heifer and steers."

"I used to take calves here myself," Loren, who was raised on a farm near Taopi, said. "We used to sleep below the grandstands in a dormitory."

Lesser reasons for coming to the fair included bingo, checking out the vendors in the Plager Building and "to meet and greet Jeff Anderson" – quote courtesy of Eddie Mjoen, 18, who said Austin High School American history teacher Anderson is the only reason he’ll be voting this fall.

For younger and older kids there is yet another major consideration. "I like to ride the rides," Kayla Wilder, 10, said. The best ones? The Thunderbolt, the Scrambler and the Starship 2000 – because they’re fast. Her 6-year-old brother, Zach, echoed her opinion, but mom Kim Hagen said the draw for her is the food and the rodeo.

Whatever the draw, it’s a fact that the Mower County Fair is a popular one, even if folks do wish Austin could arrange acts like the Oak Ridge Boys, too.

"I saw people at the Albert Lea fair from all over," Sharon Watkins of Austin said, "the Twin Cities even. I wouldn’t mind paying to get in if we could get some bigger grandstand acts."

Having said that, and after mentioning her desire for a bigger place than the Plager building, Watkins said the main reason she comes to the fair is her grandchildren.

"They love it," she said. "And my mom sure likes the bingo."

Fair schedule


Senior Citizens Day

Parking charges until 9 p.m.

Until 3 p.m. – Mel’s Polka Stars.

3 p.m. – Senior Citizens Recognition Ceremony on Godfather’s Pizza Fair Square Stage.

3:30 p.m. – Tena and Lena on Godfather’s Pizza Fair Square Stage.

4:30 p.m. – Celebrity Livestock show, Crane Pavilion, North Arena.

5-6 p.m. – Froiland Family on Godfather’s Pizza Fair Square Stage.

6:30 p.m. – Tena and Lena on Godfather’s Pizza Fair Square Stage.

7-8 p.m. – Michael McFarland at the Farm Bureau Stage.

7 p.m. – FFA Beef show-Crane Pavilion 4-H beef allowed.

7:30 p.m. – Demolition Derby – Grandstand event – tickets $7 – Tena and Lena will be singing the National Anthem

8-9:30 p.m. – Cedar River All Stars Band on Godfather’s Pizza Fair Square Stage.

10 p.m. – Plager Building closes.


Day Care Day

Parking charges from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

9 a.m. – 4-H Horse fun show, Outdoor Horse Arena.

9:30 a.m. – 4-H Swine show, Showmanship and gilt classes, Crane South Arena.

9:30 a.m. – Open Class Dairy show, Crane, North Arena.

10 a.m. – Farm Bureau Activities start at the Farm Bureau Stage (East end of Plager).

10 a.m. – Ag Scavenger Hunt for ages 12 and under.

10:30 a.m.-noon – Guided Barn Tours, pizza and refreshments on Godfather’s Pizza Fair Square Stage.

1 a.m. – 2 p.m. – 4-H Horse Exhibitor Interviews, Outdoor Horse arena, (in case of rain, Poultry barn).

Noon – Gladiolus Judging, Horticulture Building.

Noon – Plager building opens.

12:30-1 p.m. – Ronald McDonald program on Godfather’s Pizza Fair Square Stage.

1 p.m. – 4-H Pet show, Poultry building, West side.

2 p.m. – 4-H Cat show, Poultry building, West side.

3 p.m. – Ag Olympics – sign up at the Fair office until noon Friday.

4 p.m. – Ak-Sar-Ben Exhibitor meeting, 4-H dining hall.

5 p.m. – Ice Cream Social and recognition of Local Politicians.

6 p.m. – Raks Sharki Dancers on Godfather’s Pizza Fair Square Stage.

6:30 p.m. – 4-H Fashion Revue, Crane Pavilion.

7 p.m. – Century Farm Recognition at the Farm Bureau Stage.

7:15-8:30 p.m. – Amateur Talent Show Open Division on Godfather’s Pizza Fair Square Stage.

7:30 p.m. – RODEO – GRANDSTAND, Tickets $10 and $12.

8:30 p.m. – Heartland Country Dancers on the Farm Bureau Stage.

8:30 p.m. – 1 Nite Rodeo band on Godfather’s Pizza Fair Square Stage.

10 p.m. – Plager building closes.