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Fair and festival season is coming up

Terry Leary is excited about the Olmsted County Fair Board’s decision to make this summer’s fair a freefair.

The new Olmsted County Fair president knows her job is big and challenging. Take note: The event is July 25-31. Terry told me that this year, they’ve added the "Miracle of Birth," where fair-goers can witness animals being born.

The earliest fair in the area is the Winona County Fair at St. Charles, July 6-10, and it’s the 153rd annual event. Cindy Timm, fair board president, told me the theme is "Our Fair is a Gift from Heaven in 2011."

Preston’s big trout will be ready for that city’s 24th annual Preston Trout Days from May 20-22. That big Trout will likely be in the Rochesterfest parade at 6:15 p.m. June 24.

The theme for the 24th annual Rochesterfest is "Make Your Mark," with Lori Ackerman as chairwoman. Executive director Carole Brown tells me that the usual opening-day event, the Oakwood Cemetery Walk, is scheduled for later, on Sept. 24 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The theme is "Crimes and Crime Fighters," and actors will stand near the graves of the "good guys and the bad guys." Designed for school children to receive extra credit on their history projects, it is likely teachers will take in the walk with their classes.


The Pine Island Cheese festival goes back to 1937 and will be June 10-12 this year. Rick Keane told me that the Pine Island Historical Society will have an open house each day from noon to 5 p.m. in the Collins-Glamm home at 314 Main St. Built in 1917-1918, the home has a rich history and was purchased by the society in 2005 following a community fund drive.

The 137th annual Viola Gopher Count returns June 15-16. The 10 a.m. parade on June 16 goes rain or shine. I talked with Marilyn Shea, past chairwoman, who emphasized that the parade is so long, it only makes the little town square once. But, oh the fun, like an old family reunion.

On the heels of Viola’s festival, Elgin will have its 44th annual Cheese Days. Sadly, no cheese is made in Elgin any more. The Elgin Co-op Creamery provided the community with several jobs. Seems only yesterday the late Ed Scheuneman started this event in 1967.

Most festivals now manage to have involvement from several nonprofit groups raising funds for a cause.

And these get-togethers bring family reunions back again. Some, such as Chatfield’s Western Days from Aug. 11-14, put on a great stage "musical" as they have since Donald Brian Johnson directed the 1970 show, "Girls Ahoy." Festivals are adding the historical flavor whenever possible. This year, Rochesterfest has added the Wasioja Civil War re-enactment on June 24-26 in that historic village about 4 miles west of Mantorville, where many young seminary students gave their lives fighting for the North.

July and August are peppered with fairs and festivals, many during the same week or weekend. July 13-16 is the Wabasha County Fair, and the Dodge County Fair in Kasson is July 13-17. The Fillmore County Fair runs July 19-23 in Preston, the same week for two Dodge County events, both July 22-24 and not far apart: Hayfield Hey Days and West Concord Survival Days.

The little community of Berne has its 58th Swissfest on July 30-31. The calendar moves some events to earlier or later schedules. Take the Goodhue County Fair, this year running Aug. 9-14, including Sunday for the first time in decades. And the Mower County Fair is on that same week in Austin for the 127th time.

Believed to be the oldest county fair and largest outside of the Minnesota State Fair is the Steele County Fair in Owatonna from Aug. 16-21. It’s always "the fair with flair," says Todd Hale, fair board member.


They’ll support the 1858 discovery of gold in Oronoco again Aug. 19-21 with the Downtown Oronoco Golf Rush Antiques Show and Sale.

Time and space won’t let me name them all. I’ll do more again.

Next week: Another look at "mom and pop" stores with Bob Ludescher’s memories.

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