It was “Fran” day Thursday at the Winona County Fair. Not just Fran Edstrom Day! One of the first people I ran into was Fran Plank, whose brother was receiving an award, and then I had a surprise when Fran Bockenhauer was named the recipient of the Outstanding Senior Woman award. Fran and Earl were our first neighbors when we lived outside Lewiston in Gerald and Donna Brown’s rental farmhouse the first year of our marriage. I have the privilege of seeing Fran on a pretty regular basis even these many years later, as she volunteers at Grace Place, located next to us on Second Street downtown, and is active in the Church of the Brethren, for which we print and distribute a newspaper. You can see Fran and me in the accompanying photo.
It was a great day at the County Fair. The weather couldn’t have been more wonderful. We had heard that some years, the temperature in the Entertainment Tent is pretty darned hot and the humidity oppressive.
My daughter Morgan and her girls, Peyton and Andie, drove out to the fair with me. Our first stop was the exotic animal enclosure, with African Spurred Tortoises (which we will come back to later), a dromedary, a zebra, and various exotic deer-like animals and goats. From there, we went to the Entertainment Tent, where we had a sloppy joe lunch put on by SEMCAC dining. There was the usual struggle to get both girls to eat. It’s funny how they will eat any sort of fish their parents cook, but will balk at a sloppy joe and baked beans! We then sampled the sweets on sale by the food vendors before the award presentations began.
Almost all of the County Commissioners were present for the ceremony, as well as St. Charles Mayor Bill Spitzer, Rep. Gene Pelowski, Rep. Steve Drazkowski, Sheriff Dave Brand, Deputy Ron Ganrude, and other county dignitaries. They, bless their souls, stood in a receiving line for two hours!
Cindy Timm introduced her fellow Fair Board members: John Brogan, Glenn Brouwer, Tom Campbell, Bruce Christie, Dan Ihrke, Lowell Jabs, Sara Laqua, Dean Sanders, Richard Schaber, and Phil Thesing. Then County Recorder Bob Bambenek, the emcee, began the program. First, the 2013 Fair King and Queen — Dr. Phil and Barb Berends — were announced, to general applause and approval. Phil is a veterinarian, who has served the farmers in the area and been the official vet for the fair for 44 years. He remarked, when Elmer Papenfus was introduced as one of the Fair Hall of Famers, that if he had to come back to earth as another species, he’d like to come back as one of Elmer’s cows; they were treated so well!
Then the Outstanding Senior Citizens were announced. I’ve mentioned Fran Bockenhauer, volunteer supreme. Richard Schuber was named outstanding man. All the way to the podium, he announced to everyone within earshot that he didn’t want the honor. But the audience seemed to disagree with him, giving him a nice round of applause, especially for his 50 years of working for the County Fair, as treasurer.
Then the 2013 Hall of Fame members were announced. There was a big write-up in the papers about us, so I’ll just mention the names again, in addition to Elmer Papenfus and me. Cyril Speltz was ill and not able to attend. Mary, his wife, spoke and introduced their large family. A recording that Cyril made was played, in which he thanked everyone and told how much the fair meant to him from childhood to adulthood. There were few dry eyes in the audience. Garlan Hulbert told of his teaching career in Lewiston, and his and his wife’s work with the Lewiston Flower Basket project. Dianne Rislow was introduced, as well, and told the audience about her major involvement in the Lewiston Fools Five Race cancer fundraiser.
Then another surprise announcement was made: the Winona County Farm Family of the Year, Jennifer and Mike Rupprecht of Earth Be Glad Farm, an organic and sustainable operation near Rupprecht’s Valley. The farm and family have a rich history in Winona County.
When it was my turn to speak, I said that the luckiest day of my life was the day I moved to Winona County. (And I certainly didn’t realize it at the time!) I also said that after hearing Mary Speltz and Fran Bockenhauer and the others introduce their large families in attendance, I thought I should have been more active in my youth. I then introduced my daughter and two granddaughters (who couldn’t wait to escape the adult ceremony and get to the carnival rides and the animal barns).
The Century Farms were announced. Craig and Heidi Bain’s farm has been in their family continuously since 1902. Dale and Ellen Ann Pierce’s farm has been in their family since 1913.
After the ceremony wrapped up, I joined Morgan and the girls for a few carnival rides, and walks through the barns, where I marveled once again at the digestive systems of animals, on display as they are there. Leaving one of the barns, we encountered some boys walking goats. Andie was fascinated with them and asked a million questions, which the boys were gracious enough to answer.
To get to the parking lot, we again passed the African tortoises and stopped to watch them again. Soon, one of them began to pursue the other one, leading one of the girls to exclaim that they were playing follow the leader. Then the pursuer caught up to the pursued and began to mount her, which all the kids thought was really funny. As it became clear to the adults what was about to transpire, they tried to gently usher the kids away from the scene. Then, as it actually transpired, one of the kids remarked that the tortoise on top seemed to be smiling. It was at that point that Morgan grabbed the girls’s hands and said to me, “Mom! Stop watching!” So off we went home, back to the city.
It was a great day, and I thank the Winona County Fair Board for all their hard work, and for the honor they bestowed on me.