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Back and Forth: Remembering Doc Zollman and the Olmsted County Fair

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With the opening of the Olmsted County Fair in Rochester on Monday, my memories include Dr. Paul Zollman, veterinarian extraordinaire, caring for all the two-legged and four-legged animals shown by the 4-H, FFA and Open Class exhibitors.

I'm including the story of Doc Zollman as part of Mayo Clinic's 150th anniversary and the fair's 154th year. Doc got involved with the fair shortly after he came to Rochester from Macon, Mo., on Oct. 1, 1952. He came as an assistant to the staff of the Mayo Clinic and Mayo Foundation in veterinary medicine. Zollman was certified as a specialist in veterinary medicine in the Mayo Graduate School of Medicine in 1958.

Always a very quiet person, his work spoke for itself. Among his long list of awards, one he probably treasured the most was being elected president of the Minnesota division of the Izaak Walton League of America in 1961. Doc was well-known for his animal experiments at Mayo's Institute Hills Farms in the Bamber Valley area, southwest of Rochester. Many young veterinary students trained alongside of Zollman at Institute Hills.

Although Doc left us Oct. 29, 2008, at age 87, us veteran visitors to the Olmsted County Fair will always remember working with him. I interviewed him many times in the 1980s and early 1990s on live radio broadcasts from the fair. He served on the fair board many years and was the recipient of the 1986 Agribusiness Person of the Year by our Rochester Ag Committee. The Zollman Zoo at Oxbow Park, north of Byron, is a very fitting and lasting tribute to his life.

If Doc Zollman were alive today, he would treasure the Miracle of Birth Center in the former swine building at the fair. Sponsored by AgStar Financial, it's one of the most popular sites for families. This event alone may inspire a young person to go into the field of veterinary medicine. Hours for the Miracle of Birth Center are from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.


Other upcoming events at the fair

There will be lots of "roaring" in front of the Grandstand for the Demo Derby on Tuesday and Sunday. Have you seen the Red Sled Truck and Tractor Pull? It will be at the Grandstand on Thursday. Also this year, according to fair board president Terry Leary, live music returns, starting with Hairball on Wednesday. Also lined up are Joe Diffie on Friday and Filter on Saturday, with guests Helmet and Local H. Concerts are $15 in advance and $20 at the gate.

As in past years, a lot of livestock judging happens during the day on Thursday, followed by the 79th annual 4-H Market Livestock Auction at 7 p.m. in Graham Arena. That's preceded by a buyer's dinner at 6 p.m.

Horses at the fair again will be large and small. The draft horses appear at 9 a.m. Friday and Saturday in the horse arena, and the miniature horse and pony show is at 9 a.m. Sunday.

There will be nonstop food vendors up and down "Food Alley," probably offering food "on a stick," similar to the recent Rochesterfest's 30 vendors. There will be 55 food vendors at this summer's fair. The carnival rides will be provided by Gold Star Amusements.

Some history comes to life with the anvil near the fair office building, where professional blacksmiths will be demonstrating their craft. And animals and fish will be shown at the fair, again, to make the little ones "ooh" and "ah."

County fairs have become part of the American way of life. Many romances have begun and some have ended at the fair. Remember — it's a free fair, so you can walk in free, but daily parking is $5, and for the whole week, it's $20.

Just think, this fair goes back to 1860, even before the Mayos came to Rochester and before the Civil War.


Next week: The real history behind Carroll's Corn down in the Kahler subway.

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