Farm Horizons, Sept. 2003

How much do the Ehrkes love county fairs?

By Julie Yurek
Staff Writer

Animals, food, and people are reasons why Stan and Charlotte Ehrke of Lester Prairie love fairs.

This summer, they began their journey of trying to attend all of the 87 county fairs in the state.

They were able to see 18 this year, with plans to attend about 10 or so every summer thereafter.

"We don't want to overdo it or be rushed," Stan said.

In previous years, they usually went to about five county fairs, he said.

One weekend they visited eight county fairs, six of them being Anoka, Isanti, Kanabec, Morrison, Stearns, and Grant.

The Ehrkes have a passion for fairs. They have attended the Minnesota State Fair every year since 1970. Their son, Sheldon, has also attended the fair since 1970, when he was three-and-a-half years old. He now takes his wife and three sons every year, Stan said.

Stan has always loved animals, and he enjoys the barn atmosphere at the fairs.

Charlotte enjoys the fair food and visiting with the local residents, she said. "You learn so much from just talking with people."

"County fairs are like people, they are all different," Charlotte said.

The two took at least one picture at each fair, and when they left they wrote a synopsis of what they liked, disliked, and what stood out about that county fair.

"We would do it right away so we wouldn't forget anything," Charlotte said.

They spent an average of about one to two hours at each fair.

The fairs that they attended were picked according to their proximity to other fairs and if the dates correlated to those fairs nearby.

A few stand out

Some of the fairs they have attended stand out from the rest.

The smallest fair was Grant County Fair in Herman. The main "gate" was a line on the ground, and one could see the end of the fairground from the entrance, Stan said.

However, the fair had historically restored buildings that were amazing, Charlotte said.

They also spent more than their average one hour there, Stan said.

"The people were very friendly," Charlotte said.

"Most fairs are in the same boat financially, but it's the residents and volunteers that make a difference in the fair's presentation," Stan said.

The prettiest fair was the Blue Earth County fair, Charlotte said.

"It was gorgeous. It was located next to the Watonwan River and had huge oak trees," Stan said.

It is a campground when the fair isn't in operation, Charlotte said.

They also attended the Steele County Fair, located in Owatonna, which is known as the largest free county fair, Stan said.

It has 250 exhibits and more than 90 food stands.

"It's a mini state fair," Charlotte said.

Another fair that sticks in their minds is the Brown County Fair in New Ulm. The cattle barns are cement buildings that are "immaculate," Stan said.

"You did not see one cobweb in those agricultural buildings," Charlotte said.

The Scott County Fair in Jordan has the largest draft horse show, which is performed all the days of the fair, Charlotte said.

Horse owners from Canada, Nova Scotia, and the east and west coasts attended that fair, she said.

The local county fair was also one to make an impression on the couple.

The McLeod County Fair is laid out well and is aesthetically pleasing, Stan said.

The pair love fairs so much went to the Clay County Fair in Spencer, Iowa Sept. 11 and 12 with some friends.

"We just heard that it's supposed to be a really good fair," Charlotte said.

They would also like to attend the Texas State Fair some year, she said.

With more than half the state to go, the Ehrkes will have much more food, animals, and people coming their way.

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