‘Team Gleason’ to honor former fair manager during dark times
As a journalist covering news stories of all sorts, I know first-hand how quickly things can change in life.
Just when you think things are moving forward in a positive direction, life gets in the way and changes everything very quickly. Such has been the case at the Steele County Free Fair over the past several months.
I remember stopping in to speak with manager Jim Gleason at the fair office one afternoon last October. He spoke to me with his infectious smile and positive tone that I’ve only experienced with him in the seven years I’ve known him.
It saddened me to find out just a few weeks after our meeting that his life had drastically changed. After some nudging from the gals in his office, Gleason made a trip to the emergency room only to find out he had an incurable brain tumor. The prognosis did not look good.
With cancer treatments staring him in the face, Gleason gracefully stepped down as manager in early January. Steele County had lost a powerful force in coordinating the best fair in the state if not the entire country. The fair will never be the same without Gleason at the helm.
Since Gleason began his cancer journey, Team Gleason has been formed to help him through the difficulties. Team Gleason consists of family, friends and not surprisingly, many of his fair friends.
On Saturday, Team Gleason will fire in action with a big benefit at the Retrofit Building in Owatonna. Gleason should feel right at home as many of the staples of the fair will be a part of the benefit - fair vendors, fair food, color guard, entertainment, and perhaps most importantly, friends who enjoy the fair that Gleason has helped build into the monster it has become.
Doug Meier, an Owatonna businessman who has a huge heart for helping others, has been planning the benefit along with many other friends of the fair. He credited Shelly Noble and the Honorable Renee Worke for helping him pull everything together.
“It was shocking,” Meier told me last week of learning about Gleason’s fate last fall. “I still have a hard time believing it. He wanted to keep going and now look at how things change so fast.”
Meier’s desire to help a friend in need is extraordinary.
“I like promoting things in town that people like to have fun at,” said Meier, who grew up in Owatonna. “I love to give back to the community,” he says.
Meier has planned other benefits in the past. Without Gleason’s being over yet, he’s already looking ahead to another one. On May 19, Meier is planning a German Fest for local auctioneer Jeff Kath, who passed away suddenly in January at the age of 63. The celebration will be called, “Good golly, Molly May Fest.”
One thing Meier assured me is that residents will not be disappointed with either one of the benefits he has planned.
“It will be a good time,” Meier said.
County fairs are more than just a yearly carnival. The electric atmosphere that Gleason helped to create for everyone stimulates cultivation of a vibrant community. And now area residents have the chance to go in hot pursuit of returning their thanks to a man who has supported this region for many years.