JOHN EGGERS: What's better than a county fair?

I never met a county fair that I didn't like. Want a summer highlight that just may be unforgettable? Go to your county fair. Big or small, they all have qualities that make each one the best. What's better than a county fair? The answer, not much.

I never met a county fair that I didn't like. Want a summer highlight that just may be unforgettable? Go to your county fair. Big or small, they all have qualities that make each one the best. What's better than a county fair? The answer, not much.

Growing up in southern Minnesota, everyone in that neck of the woods said that the Owatonna or Steele County Fair was the best. Although it may have been Minnesota's biggest county fair, personally I preferred the smaller Waseca Fair. There is something about a small county fair that makes it more inviting. This is why your county fairs in Bagley, Bemidji and Northome are so popular. They're ol' fashion, sit on your front porch, homemade ice cream events.

County fairs have a certain attitude that makes each unique and special. You can get a feel for it the minute you walk in. Could be this attitude comes from the smell. Coming from rural Minnesota, I don't think there is any smell better than a farm smell. It has a certain sweetness that evokes lots of memories-at least for me.

John Eggers


The fair smell is why your first stop should be to the animal barns. Horses, cows, sheep, goats, pigeons, chickens, ducks, and rabbits and young people scrubbing, cutting and trimming to get their animals ready to show. We can take pride in our 4-H youth. It's the diligence given to their projects that make them good future leaders.

In my younger days my brother and I and our friends would spend the whole day at the Waseca fair. We would take the train from Waterville and just walk around. We didn't have much money, maybe a couple of dollars at the most. The thrill was just taking in the sights and sounds.

I thought a lot about those carnival people who would go from city to city, setting up their tents and rides and then tearing them down. I wanted to know where they came from and where they were headed and did they enjoy what they were doing. You often heard of people running away with the circus. I would think about that for a second or two and then come to my senses.

There is a certain curiosity associated with fairs. It's not just the carnival people but I find the garden people equally as interesting. Do they specifically plant a certain seed with the intention of taking a flower or vegetable to the fair? Was there a certain flower they were grooming just so they could enter it and win a ribbon? How about those pickles? Did they try a different variety this year with the hope it might win a grand champion ribbon?

My kids entered a few things when they were younger. Their eyes lit up when they saw they had won a ribbon. They felt a real sense of pride. County fairs give kids pride because they first have to earn it.

This is why fairs are truly American. People who enter a quilt, plant or photo feel good because they accomplished something. Achieving is all about beginning and finishing a project. A person reaps the benefits and this is where self-confidence begins.

One of the reasons I have always enjoyed the Beltrami County Fair is its focus on history. The Dowd Cabin, Fire Tower and the Sunnyside School are steps back into a time when life was a bit simpler but still challenging. The older you become, the more you appreciate the good ol' days. Someone once said that the good ol' days were kind of rotten. That may be true in some regards and that's why today is a little better. We continue to learn.

When you enter Sunnyside School, take a moment to sit in a desk, close your eyes and envision the chatter of young people coming in, taking off their coats, taking out and opening their books while the teacher is writing some notes on the chalkboard. You smell the fields from the open windows; hear the sound of a killdeer, and maybe some boys who are running because they are late. It's all there, right in your mind.


County fairs are a learning experience. If a county fair existed for the entire year you could actually have a school within the fair. Think of the hands-on science, history, economics, political science, agriculture and art you could study. Fairs are living classrooms for young people and this is why they are probably summer's best overall activity.

Every fair has a musical background. It could be from the carnival or from some country western or gospel singers or from the animals. People take time to sit and listen. They forget about their troubles on the outside world and just relax and listen and appreciate the music that may not be outstanding but good enough.

If you did nothing else at the fair but just sit and eat a footlong hot dog, fry bread taco or sip on a chocolate shake and just watch people that, too, would be good enough. Hope to see you at the fair. I'll be in the schoolhouse sipping a shake.

Riddle: Did you hear about the dog at the flea circus? He stole the show! No matter what is going on in your life, the county fair will steal the show for you. Don't fight it. Go!


100 percent graduation rate

A local movement is underway to ensure the area has a 100 percent high school graduation rate. Here's some tips on how you can help us achieve that goal:

1. When you go to the county fair and visit the commercial exhibits, remind your kids that those people talking about their product all have their high school diplomas. This is why they are successful.


2. Before you attend the fair, tell your kids that you are going to test them on one thing they learned. After you see the fair, ask them what they learned. In fact, when school begins, asking your kids what they learned that day should be your first question after you give them some cookies and milk.

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