Oldest fair, but new ventures abound
Don’t ever be fooled into thinking things are status quo at the state’s oldest county fair.
When the Dodge County Free Fair opens its gates next week in Kasson, there will be new adventures awaiting fairgoers. The fair, which is in its 161styear, runs July 18-22.
Perhaps the greatest adventure that has already stirred many emotions and reactions is the Remember Our Fallen display, which is similar to the Vietnam Memorial that has been traveling around the state this year. Remember Our Fallen is a tribute to soldiers who have died in wars since 9/11.
“There is quite a bit of interest out there with this display,” said Marilyn Lermon, fair president. She said Gold Star families have been notified about the memorial coming to the fair so she expects increased traffic just from those people.
On Saturday, July 21, the Patriot Guards will ride about 125 motorcycles into the fairgrounds during the mid-afternoon for about an hour just to look at the Remember Our Fallen display, according to Lermon. A certain section of the grounds will be blocked off for them, she noted.
“It’s their hero ride,” she said, adding this is the same group that rides for military funerals.
Another new adventure at this year’s fair will be the Sunday afternoon grandstand show, “Dodge Mayhem.” The race involves participants doing laps around the race track with three different appliances on their trailers. “I guess that gets real exciting,” Lermon said.
A new scholarship will be awarded this year to a 4-H member during the fair in memory of Larry Schafer, a former fair president for many years who died this past year. Lermon said the scholarship will be at least $300, and possibly more. The scholarship will be presented just ahead of this year’s Livestock Ribbon Auction on Saturday. “Larry was instrumental in starting the 4-H Ribbon Auction,” she said. She added Schafer was also big into herdsmanship and leadership.
Lermon said this year’s 4-H exhibit numbers are up from past years. In Lermon’s case, the 4-H program has always been important in her family as she had three daughters who went through the program. “It has been one tremendous help to them,” she said. She credits 4-H to helping build critical life skills into young people.
For those with a sweet tooth, there are some new food vendors coming to the fair.
“I think we have quite a bit to offer,” Lermon said. “The goal is to educate and promote agriculture and have entertainment for people.”
Lermon hopes fairgoers will see that there is a wide variety of activities for them to do throughout the fair. She noted the board is careful about finding activities for all ages from little kids up to senior citizens. “You have to have a little bit of everything to keep the interest going,” she said.
Even though the fair may be the oldest in the state, Lermon finds that there is still wide interest in the fair. “It’s a place where the whole county can come together,” she said. She added the fairs always generate wide interest of parents and grandparents.
Asked about the future of fairs, Lermon said, “We hope to keep the fairs going, but you never know with the changing of the generations.”