During the week of July 14 Stevens County Fair Board members and other volunteers were busy working on facility improvements at the fairgrounds for the Aug.6-11 fair.

Board chairman Ryan Sleiter was working on the fairgrounds that week when he stopped to see one of the improvements.

“It looks fantastic,” Sleiter said of the upgraded restroom on the end of the fairgrounds near where the carnival midway sets up.

“It’s a huge improvement,” Sleiter said of the restroom.

A concrete restroom may not be flashy but it’s an important improvement for the thousands of folks who are at the fair each year, he said.

The restroom upgrade is just one of the facility improvements on the fairgrounds.

Volunteers have repainted the floors of the open class building and the homemaker’s club exhibit building. The hog barn was also repainted.

“The horse barn will have more ventilation. We’ve added 14 fans that are 42 inches,” Sleiter said. “Those will be pushing a lot of air.”

The fair board also decided to add two portable hand washing stations, Sleiter said. These stations will have running water, he said. Sleiter said a carpenter and retired plumber offered to build the portable stations.

The improvements on the fairgrounds are paid for with proceeds from fees charged to vendors, donations, admission prices and sponsorships.

Sometimes, vendors and people will ask what the board does with all the money it receives, Sleiter said. “We’re not rolling in money. Every dollar...goes into the (fair and fairgrounds).”

The fair organization now has 501c3 status which means donors can apply donations to tax deductions, Sleiter said.

“It will make it easier for people to give,” Sleiter said.

While money is used for improvements at the fairgrounds, it’s also used for entertainment. The fair has free admission and lots of the entertainment is free to visitors.

Sleiter said The Strongman and Brodini are two of the acts returning to the free stage entertainment this year. Both are back by popular demand, he said.

Brodini will be making at least his seventh appearance, Sleiter said. “He draws a crowd,” Sleiter said. “Two years ago we did not have him, and parents asked us ‘Where’s Brodini? Our kids love him.’”

Brodini will be at the fair for two days and another magician, Magic Joe, will be at the fair on other days, Sleiter said.

Some of the paid entertainment has changed this year. The fair will have a lawn mower demolition derby this year. A lawnmower derby is like a car demolition derby as lawnmowers smash into each other.

A scene from the 2017 lawnmower demolition derby at the Stevens County Fair. File photo/Stevens County Times
A scene from the 2017 lawnmower demolition derby at the Stevens County Fair. File photo/Stevens County Times

Sleiter said fair officials were contacted by a Big Stone County Fair official who said he had interested participants who were willing to compete in Stevens County, he said. That official even volunteered to help with a Stevens County Fair derby so the local board agreed, Sleiter said.

While volunteers were working during the week of July 14, volunteers also work year-round on the fair, Sleiter said.

When asked to estimate how many volunteer hours are logged between fairs, Sleiter said it had to be “hundreds of thousands of hours. To be honest that morning after the fair, we start planning for the next one.”

“It takes a lot of work,” board member Mary Hill said. But, “we work together well. We have fun together,” she said.

The work doesn’t end when the fair starts. Volunteers are working at the fair each day. Depending on the day, some volunteers may start as early as 6 a.m. and stop at 11 p.m., he said.

The volunteers work because they are passionate about the fair, Sleiter said. Volunteers want the best fair possible, he said. It may be long hours and hard work but there is a satisfaction in it.

“For me, it’s about three o’clock on Saturday afternoon seeing all the people visiting and enjoying as snow cone or cotton candy or steak on a stick.” A scene like shows that volunteers are doing their job, Sleiter said.

The state fair may boast that it’s the great Minnesota get together, Sleiter said he likes to think of the Stevens County Fair as the great west central Minnesota get together.

Read more about the fair in the Stevens County Time's 2019 Stevens County Fair Preview