By Carol Stender
MOTLEY, Minn. — Ag education and promotion was highlighted at the Morrison County Fair in Motley.
The fair featured a "Farmer For A Day" exhibit for children, the Farm Bureau’s safety wagon operated by county FFA members and a children’s barnyard including a llama and miniature horse and colt.
Fair secretary Christine Esterl said the ag focus was suggested at the state’s fair convention.
"They said fairs are about learning," Esterl said. "They said it’s a place to educate others about farming and agriculture. If you don’t do that and promote agriculture, the fair is nothing more than a street carnival. We thought, ‘What can we do?’ We started to make plans."
Many exhibitors had already taken opportunities to talk about farming to fair visitors, she said. Milking times at the fair are popular times for exhibitors and farmers to explain cow care and the milking process.
Esterl doesn’t have a farm background and she isn’t a resident of Morrison County. She got her fair position through an aunt who’d worked at the fair for several years.
"I kind of grew into this position," she said. "And when I started, I got everything in the family to help."
Her father, Tim, grew up in the area and the family has a cabin at a nearby lake. Each summer the family’s plans included the Motley-based fair. Their involvement grew and now includes mom, Rita and sister, Madeline. They are joined by other Motley-area residents in fair cleanup, preparation and planning.
They often visited the Morrison County 4-H office to learn about conference judging, 4-H exhibits and projects, Esterl, Christine and Rita have even taken the 4-H program’s judging course.
The Motley fair is one of two in the county and isn’t sanctioned by the state. The county’s Little Falls fair is sanctioned. The Motley fair is considered a practice fair by 4-H and FFA exhibitors. Judges are aware of the Motley event’s unique position.
"They know the kids aren’t going to earn trips to the state fair by exhibiting here," Esterl said. "It’s a great opportunity, though, for the kids to get advice."
The event is for the kids.
"We make sure the kids have lots of fun and that it is an inexpensive time for the families," she said.
The Girls Scouts manned games for children and did face painting. Older youth took part in football and ring toss games. Entertainment included two magic shows, demo derbies, music and bike give-aways. Fair-goers were encouraged to bring their ugly bridesmaid dresses, ugly hats and scarecrows, cutest pet photos and Lego masterpieces to exhibit and win prizes.