Every year since 1973, the Becker County Fair has honored two county residents as the county's outstanding seniors - but this year, they decided to expand on that a little.
After announcing that Ogema resident Fran Mattson and Cormorant Lakes area resident Rick Julian as this year's award recipients, the program's emcee, Cynthia McDonough of Mahube-Otwa Community Action, announced that the competition between two of the nominees, Julian and Detroit Lakes resident Don Sayer, had been so close that they decided to make Sayer an honorary third recipient.
"It was a difficult decision," she said, adding that the selection committee chooses the award recipients based on a points system, and there hadn't been much difference between Julian and Sayer at all.
Unfortunately, Julian was unable to be present at Thursday's award ceremony in Detroit Lakes, but the person who nominated him for the award, fellow Cormorant Lions Club member Mike Wammer - himself a past Outstanding Senior Citizen Award recipient - accepted the award in his stead, with McDonough informing the crowd gathered under the Big Tent at the fairgrounds that Julian had sent his sincere apologies for being unable to be present at the ceremony.
Though Sayer was presented with a framed certificate of appreciation for his volunteer work, only Julian and Mattson are eligible to advance to the state competition, which will take place on Thursday, Aug. 30 at the Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul.
The annual awards recognize senior citizens who have made outstanding contributions to their community since reaching age 65. Nominees must be at least 70 years of age by June 1 of the year in which they are nominated.
Mattson was honored for her volunteer work with the Friends of Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge. As a member of the Friends, Mattson has served in a variety of areas at Tamarac, including environmental education program leader, visitor center host, wildlife surveyor, event planning and hosting for both the Tamarac Fall Festival and Toast to Tamarac annual fundraiser (held at Richwood Winery), and as a member of the Friends' board of directors. She has also served as a board member and secretary for the Big Sugarbush Lake Association.
Julian, a longtime member of the Cormorant Lions Club, has served that organization in several areas, including volunteering at the annual fishing day hosted by the Lions at Kamp KACE (Kids Against Cancer Everywhere) in Cormorant; coordinating the Lions' annual fall stag fundraiser, which raises upwards of $15,000 each year to support both local and national projects; and road ditch cleanup. He also volunteers with the Salvation Army's Red Kettle Campaign during the holiday season; and the Cormorant Sportsman's Club, coordinating its martin house project and trapper education classes (where he also serves as an instructor), as well as serving as a board member, educator, leader, coordinator and meeting cook.
Sayer has spent more than 18 years as a volunteer at the Becker County Food Pantry in Detroit Lakes, helping to prepare food boxes for clients, as well as with the local Knights of Columbus and as a member of and usher for Holy Rosary Catholic Church.