Finding your fit at the fair


The Douglas County Fair was starting to buzz on Thursday morning as people trickled into the Alexandria Fairgrounds.

There is something for everyone here, from rides and exhibits through Sunday's last day. On Thursday, the Department of Natural Resources building was busy with kids and adults coming to check out all the fish and wildlife on hand again this year.

Ryan and Angie Heidelberger of Garfield brought their children through, and the kids' curiosity took over when walking around the building. Their 5-year-old son, Gabriel, walked his way along the open pond full of fish on the center floor before coming to the big aquarium.

This offers an up-close look at eye level of fish species that were removed from Barrett Lake before they are returned after the fair. Gabriel threw his hands up in excitement as he pointed out the species he knew.

"I think we just want to instill a love for the area that we've grown up in and being outside," Angie said of bringing their kids through the DNR building. "We love to go fishing, planting wildflowers and grasses and so there's just kind of something for everything that we're passionate about. It's nice encouraging that passion."

Anyone going through the DNR building can see a variety of fish and wildlife. There are different pheasant species on hand, waterfowl, a crane, skunk, coyotes, a badger and young wild sheep. The aquarium features many of the species that come out of area lakes, from rough fish like a bigmouth buffalo to popular game species like walleye, bass, crappies and northerns.

DNR staff members are on hand to answer questions, while soil, water and conservation information is also available for people. Ryan Heidelberger looked forward to having their kids take in everything the building had to offer.

"I like for them to see the variety of animals that are out there. Then, I also always try to stop by the soil, water, conservation side," he said. "Sometimes they're giving out seeds to encourage planting for pollinators, and just teaching them about the conservation side of things. Not just the harvesting side of things."

Everyone has their favorites at the fair. For the Heidelbergers, this is their fit.

"I remember being 5 years old and this was always the first stop that we would make," Ryan said. "Dad was always the most passionate about taking us here."