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The fun has begun: Becker County Fair starts

GETTING READY FOR THE CROWDS: An Amusement Attractions worker power-washes a midway ride Monday at the fairgrounds. The Ferris wheel in the background is a new $300,000 purchase by the company and will provide a changing LED light show.1 / 3
DECORATING A 4-H BOOTH are Monica McConkey, Madison Bowers, 9, and Katie McConkey, 7. They were working on the Cloverdale 4-H Club booth at the 4-H exhibit building Monday afternoon. The building opens for public viewing at 7 p.m. today at the fairgrounds.2 / 3
DECORATING A HORSE STALL are Keara, Paulette and Elizabeth Schauer and Amber Wolbeck of the Franklin 4-H Club. They were at the horse barn at the fairgrounds Monday.3 / 3

The Becker County Fair begins today and will be a hub of non-stop people for the next four days.

Last year, there were an estimated 25,000-30,000 fair-goers, and Fair Board President Bob Sonnenberg is anticipating that many or more again this year.

"It's going very good. We had lots of help today," Sonnenberg said Tuesday afternoon from the fair's office.

Although prep work for the barns started last week, he said that 95 percent of the fair started setting up Monday, including the midway and the big tent. There were 10-12 board members that came to help set up the fair - "they're very good; in fact, they're outstanding," he said.

On Tuesday, the Sentencing to Service crew helped set up. "They're good workers," Sonnenberg said. "Things really moved."

"And the city has been wonderful helping us. We really appreciate them," he added.

So by now, the rides will have begun to spin, the cheese curds will have begun to fry, and the princesses will have begun to be crowned.

There is a full line-up throughout the three main days of the fair --Thursday, Friday and Saturday -- with acts under the big tent, entertainment in the grandstand, demolition derbies and plenty of animals to visit.

From clothing to flowers, blueberry muffins to pottery, artwork to salsa, the open class building will be filled with pretty much everything one can imagine.

"Flowers is one of the largest (divisions)," Sonnenberg said. "It smells like you're in a greenhouse when you get over there."

Beginning this morning, anyone and everyone could bring their goods to the open class building for judging, which is held tonight and Thursday morning.

"Last year was the largest entry," he said. "We expect a good turnout again this year."

One building that has a good turnout every year, but just about didn't open this year, is the Department of Natural Resources building. With the state shutdown ending just last week, DNR employees were working at the last minute to get the fair building up and going for today.

"It ended just in time," DNR Wildlife Technician Brian Torgusson said of the government shutdown Tuesday as he and two other DNR workers set up the building.

They worked to hang the mounted animals and fish on the walls and fill the pens with live animals.

"Our wild animals come from Needlewoods Game Farm east of town," he said.

He said watching DNR summer laborers Jeff Axton and Mark Palm round up the animals, transport them to the building and get them in their cages was amusing, especially when it came time to round up the prairie dogs.

The fish on display are caught from area lakes, and Torgusson said there may not be as much of a variety this year because of the short time available to catch the fish.

"We scrambled, trying to get everything together," he said.

"It was a lot shorter notice than usual," Axton said of getting the building together. "We usually work on this two or three weeks ahead of time."

Besides the DNR, other displays in the building include the Becker County Natural Resources, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, DNR Forestry, DNR Wildlife, DNR Fisheries, Pelican River Watershed District - which will be holding a drawing for a rain barrel - North Country Trail and Becker County Soil and Water - which will be testing water samples the public brings in.

"There is a lot of activity in the area," Torgusson said of the DNR building. "It's a well-used building."

MNAqua will also be hosting programs at the building including the ever-popular minnow races and fish ID.

New this year is an "Owls of Minnesota" display.

With a good weather forecast for the rest of the week and weekend, the fair should see plenty of people.

"The grandstand can be full and yet the grounds are still full. That's good to see," Sonnenberg said. "It's always nice to see them having fun."

And with much of the entertainment and all of the exhibits free, the fair is a good place for the budget conscious as well.

The best part of the fair for Sonnenberg?

"To see people smile and have fun. The people make the fair. We just set it up."