LOVE, FAIR STYLE
They met as 4-H members at the Steele County Fair so it seemed only fitting for them to tie the knot right where their love began.
On June 15, Andy Jacobson and Kelli Naatz held their wedding reception and dance for 350 guests in the Foundation Building on the Steele County Fairgrounds in Owatonna. The actual wedding ceremony took place at First Lutheran Church in Blooming Prairie.
Andy and Kelli first crossed paths as Steele County 4-H members at the fair in 2008. Andy grew up on a farm near Ellendale while Kelli grew up on a farm south of Blooming Prairie. They were both in 4-H for 13 years and showed livestock.
“The fair brought us together back in 2008 when we got to know each other through 4-H,” Kelli said. “We spent every fair there and every waking moment at the fair,” she added.
Prior to the wedding, the couple spent about a week converting the Foundation Building into a venue for their special day. But it didn’t start out without some wonderment of how they were going to pull this off.
“We walked into the building wondering what we would be able to do with it,” Kelli said. Together with her parents, Doug and Holli Naatz, they spent the entire week decorating, hanging lights from the ceiling, creating a dance floor and crafting a background for the head table.
One of the centerpieces for the wedding decorations was a portion of an old granary that had been torn down a year ago. “We cut a wall into three pieces,” Kelli said. “It turned out to be an awesome background behind the head table.”
They also brought other old items from their farm for decorations. Kelli described her wedding décor as a “rustic farm house, but it was eloquent.” She went on to say, “We had a lot of people tell us that they have never seen a barn as beautiful as it was.”
In addition to growing up at the fair, the newlyweds had another reason for utilizing the fairgrounds for their wedding. The ashes of Andy’s brother, Evan, are buried by a tree planted in his memory outside the 4-H Eat Stand. A picnic table has also been placed as a memorial. In 2009, Evan tragically died at 14 years old in a farm accident on the family farm.
Andy proposed to Kelli by the picnic table just two days before Christmas.
“It was meaningful to us to have him there,” Kelli said of having the wedding near Evan. “That was a very important aspect to have him there. It brought it all together,” she added.
Kelli said the fair will always hold a special spot in her heart. “It’s where I met the love of my life,” she said.
She credits the fair with allowing her to meet many lifetime friends. “Everybody in 4-H is a family,” Kelli said. “When you go to the fair, you’re at home with your 4-H family.”
Kelli feels fortunate to have grown up around the fair, especially being involved in 4-H and agriculture activities. “Sports in great, but 4-H will take you a lot farther in life,” Kelli says. “We appreciate what 4-H did for us. It shapes you into a great individual,” she said.
The couple plans to give back to the organization that brought them together by volunteering their time. Kelli will be taking on at least three time slots as shift manager at the 4-H Eat Stand during the fair. She also plans to assist with running the beef show. A scholarship is also given out to two individuals every year in memory of Evan.
“We’re always helping out, donating and giving back to the fair,” Kelli said. “I don’t think you’ll ever get rid of us.”
They will also continue their family tradition of camping at the fair for the entire week. “I told mom she can’t give up her camping spot because it’s too good,” Kelli said.
The Steele County Fair is “a great fair all around,” Kelli says. “Every year they make it better and have something new to offer.”
She hopes their children will some day enjoy the fair as much as they have.
Andy and Kelli are planning a honeymoon this coming winter. But she assured one thing. It won’t be at the Steele County Fairgrounds.
“It will be somewhere warm,” Kelli said.