The Becker County Fair returned Wednesday to excited attendees after taking a one-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first two days of the fair featured the opening of various community exhibits spread throughout the fairgrounds and judging for everything from animals to flowers to arts and crafts.
Wednesday's Opening Day festivities included judging for 4-H rabbit, poultry and swine as well as open-class entries for everything from art and needlework to flowers and vegetables.
Karla Lindquist, who was in charge of coordinating the open-class exhibit entries, said she was "very impressed" by the overall quality of the exhibits, particularly in the flower, vegetable and other garden categories.
"I think the numbers (of entries) are down a little," she said, "but I'm impressed by what did come in, especially with the summer we've had. The vegetables, the flowers, they all look great."
Over at the TEAM Industries trailer, Randy Smith, a senior production supervisor at the company's facilities in Audubon, said that they were getting ready to welcome kids and adults for a series of demonstrations inside the air-conditioned trailer.
"There's a laser etcher, and a machine that lets you try welding … virtually," he said, adding that the trailer's presence at the fair is not only to help call attention to TEAM's various job openings, and how to apply for them, but also to advertise the company's joint project with the Becker County Museum to host a series of four kids' STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) camps this summer.
On Thursday, July 29, the Becker County 4-H Club featured their beginners showmanship group which consisted of new exhibiters who had not shown animals in competition previously. Samuel Strom, 11, of Lake Park, won the beginners group and was very proud of his sheep: Jerry.
"I think (sheep) are cute and I like leading them a lot," said Strom.
The Becker County 4-H Club offers a variety of programs designed provide educational experiences outside of the classroom and provide hands-on learning so children can find their passion, said Leigh Edwards, extension educator at the Becker County 4-H Club.
"Everyone is really excited to be back, and be back together," said Edwards. "4-H offers a wide range of activities and opportunities … so many of our hands-on programs, such as Lego robotics, or our community arts project, or our 4-H pollinator ambassadors, they have a topic area, or focus, but then we also intentionally build in opportunities for a public showcase, public engagement opportunity and really try to grow civic engagement skills."
Edwards said the some kids raise animals throughout the year, investing time into learning how to showcase that animal and then present it to the public, which teaches them public speaking skills and self-confidence.
"I think those are the aspects that are really able to be offered during the fair, whereas last year, we kind of missed out on that," she said.
Edwards also said through 4-H programs kids are taught valuable life skills, like belonging, self-respect, respect for others, social and emotional learning.
"And that's why 4-H is really amazing," she said. "We offer educational learning opportunities in a non-academic setting."
Samuel's mother, Caroline Strom, said her son has really taken to the 4-H programs and thinks he's making lifelong friends in the process.
"The smile on his face makes me want to do it again," said Caroline Strom. "They have already made more friends then I could ever imagine. This is life. I love it, they love it."
The county fair will run through Saturday, July 31, at the county fairgrounds on Rossman Avenue in Detroit Lakes.