Fair's hard work pays off

Thumbs Up: The Douglas County Fair put on another successful, fun and memorable event last week. Even though rain cut the fair short on Thursday and Saturday night, people still flocked to the fair in good numbers – an estimated 48,000 (about 2,000 less than last year’s crowd). Part of the fair’s success can be attributed to the fair board’s willingness to try new things. This year, for instance, they decided to switch the fair’s four-day run from Thursday through Sunday to Wednesday through Saturday and it looks like it paid off. Preliminary attendance figures show that about 13,000 people went to the fair Wednesday, compared to only 7,500 who attended on Sunday last year. The free entertainment offered to fairgoers each day also was well-received. Members don’t run the fair on auto-pilot; they devote year-round energy and planning to put together a celebration that offers something for everyone. Here’s how one fair-goer summed it up on the fair’s Facebook page: “My sister and I just said today at the fair, ‘This is the best county fair in all of Minnesota!’ We love it! Large selection of animals, kids interactive farm yard, food, exhibits, vendors, so many awesome 4-H entries that make you proud of the kids in Douglas County and of course the rides and midway, races and derbies.”

Minnesota teachers excel

Thumbs Up: With a new school year poised to start, let’s hear it for the teachers out there who are doing one of the most noble jobs in the world, helping children learn. They’re not just “doing” the job, they are excelling at it, especially in Minnesota. A new report from the personal-finance website, WalletHub, backs that up. It compared the quality and safety of schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia across 29 key measures. The data set ranged from pupil-teacher ratios to dropout rates to median standardized-test scores. Here’s how Minnesota fared (with 1 being the best, 25 being average): math test scores – second; reading test scores – 13th; median SAT score – first; median ACT score – 22nd; percentage of licensed/certified public K-12 teachers – 23rd. While there is room for improvement, Minnesota teachers deserve a thumbs up for their hard work and success in the classroom.

Forgetting to stop

Thumbs Down: Drivers are still not obeying the stop sign while exiting the new Starbucks in Alexandria as they head west. “Twice this week I came from Walmart going down the road to the stop sign and the people coming from Starbucks are not stopping for the sign on the road,” said a reader in an email. “Someone is going to get hit there sometime. Very dangerous intersection.”

Help for smokers to kick the habit

Thumbs Up: There’s some wry truth in the statement, “Quitting smoking is easy. I’ve done it hundreds of times.” But this time, get serious about it. Try a program offered by ClearWay Minnesota called QUITPLAN Services. Since 2001, more than 170,000 Minnesota smokers have signed up to receive help from the program, which provides comprehensive support to tobacco users trying to quit, including a helpline and a range of services like medications, text messages and one-to-one phone counseling. QUITPLAN Services also offer mini-quit Mondays where smokers taking steps toward quitting can win cash for their efforts. For more information, go to www.quitplan.com or call 1-888-354-PLAN. QUITPLAN Services will close its doors in March 2020, but thanks to Minnesota lawmakers, funding for statewide tobacco cessation services was included in the final health budget. When QUITPLAN Services ends, the Minnesota Department of Health will provide and promote quit-smoking services to all residents. Tobacco use remains the leading cause of death and disease and costs residents $7 billion annually. Nearly 600,000 Minnesota adults still smoke. Do you have someone in your life who needs help quitting? QUITPLAN Services may be the first step toward a healthier life.