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It's Our Turn: Fair board members deserve some recognition

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opinion Alexandria, 56308

Alexandria Minnesota 225 7th Ave E
P.O. Box 549
56308

Another Douglas County Fair is now behind us. For many local residents, that event is one of the highlights of summer. For me, it's always been bittersweet.

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I was a 4-H member for more than 10 years, so thoughts of the fair began months earlier. 4-H projects take planning, record keeping and a lot of time and hard work to complete.

Hours, days, weeks and months were spent getting projects ready for the highlight of a 4-Her's year - the county fair.

When the fair finally rolled around, it brought with it a mixture of emotions. Nerves on judging day, pride or disappointment when the ribbons were awarded, fun with 4-H friends, and of course, all the excitement of carnival rides, entertainment, fair food, etc.

Those of us with livestock entries practically lived at the fair. Some did, camping out behind the barns.

And then, it was over. That's the bitter part. So much work and planning for so long, and it always went by much too quickly. And the end of the fair meant the start of school wasn't far behind.

Because my grandfather served as the secretary of the Douglas County Agricultural Association for more than 30 years, the fair was always an important family event for us as well.

He'd usually have us grandkids involved in some way in the days and weeks leading up to the fair, and after. We'd sweep out buildings, wash exhibit display cases, help put up signs and more.

One of the board members I most remember during that time was George Dyrstad. He always had a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye.

I recently had the opportunity to interview George (featured in the August 9, 2013 Echo Press. George was asked by my grandfather to join the board in 1965. He said yes, and has served for the past 48 years.

During the interview, one of the things he said was that my grandpa only had one speed - fast forward. He also said that he was passionate about the fair and he worked hard to improve it every year.

That was definitely something I, and everyone else who knew my grandfather, already knew. The minute the fair was over he was planning ahead for the next one, trying to find solutions to problems or to continually improve on all areas of the fair, from entertainment to parking to exhibits.

It's been the same story for George and every other fair board member who has dedicated years to this event. It's hard work, often with little recognition. A lot of times the only feedback the board members receive is negative.

I worked for the association for a couple summers while in college, managing the exhibitor contracts. It was during those times that I really saw what goes into putting on an event like this.

I also spent a lot of time in the fair board office in the grandstand, and I remember that many, many times people came in to complain about this or that, and sometimes they weren't very nice.

I often wondered why grandpa kept doing it year after year. But after interviewing George, I realized that for many of these board members, it's a passion. And even if they don't get the pats on the back they deserve after each fair is completed, they are still able to glean some self-satisfaction and rest well knowing that all-in-all, the fair continues to grow and improve with each passing year.

• • •

"It's Our Turn" is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.

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