The fair always brings back fond memories

Published 8:56 am Friday, July 25, 2008

It doesn’t seem quite possible that the Freeborn County Fair will soon be here.

This used to signal the beginning of the end to summer when I was growing up.

The fair used to be around the middle of August and when it wrapped up it was almost time to go back to school.

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As kids we would anxiously await the opening day of the fair and as the time grew near we’d ride our bikes to the fairgrounds and check things out. We would thoroughly inspect all of the improvements that had been made since last year’s fair. It was almost as if the fair wouldn’t start without first getting our stamp of approval. We would ride through the empty midway and envision what it would look like in a couple of days and then on to the livestock barns to see where the cattle and hogs would be residing.

It was always an exciting time and if there happened to be a food stand that opened a day early we’d be there.

It was usually the 4-H stand that opened early, I suppose that it was to accommodate the people that were bringing in their livestock.

It was indeed an exciting time and what a great time to be a kid. I didn’t have a lot of money but I started saving from the beginning of summer for the biggest event of the summer.

What money I had was usually from mowing lawns or helping my Uncle Orv on the farm with whatever chores he needed done.

I would make sure I had enough money for some of that good fair food but my favorite was the pineapple swirl ice cream cone that you could only get at the fair. This was the ultimate taste treat. I know for a fact that I’ve never experienced anything that tasty since. I don’t know when they quit bringing their ice cream stand to the fair or what happened to them but wherever they went they took that unforgettable treat with them.

I used to love stock car races and they would have races at the fair almost every year. There used to be weekly races on the 1/5 mile track right in front of the grandstand and then during the fair they’d race on the 1/2 mile track.

Oh how I looked forward to those races. All our local favorites would be there and with a bigger purse they’d draw racers from farther away to challenge our local heroes. I don’t remember when the last races took place but I suppose they were finally considered too dangerous or too noisy for the neighbors or maybe a combination of both. Whatever the reason they are gone now, but to me whenever I look at the grandstand I can still see the racetrack and the cars that made it a fun place to be.

Then there was the Aut Swenson Thrillcade, “Death Defying Daredevils” the promotion would say. They would have stunt drivers jumping ramps, jumping ramp to ramp, driving on two wheels, going through fire and T-Boning a pile of cars.

There was the rollover contest where they’d see how many times they could roll a car over. It seems like there were always one or two guys that were billed as “one of Hollywood’s greatest stuntmen” and that added to the fascination.

This particular thrill show always had a guy that would lie in a wooden coffin and blow himself up with dynamite only to miraculously escape unscathed. This would be followed with the grand finale, which was billed as the “Ride of Death”. It was kind of a downhill ski jump looking thing on the back of a flatbed semi and there was a little car that was made of cement. A man would sit inside of the car, which kind of looked like a Weeble car with roll bars, as it was pulled slowly to the top of the jump.

After much fanfare and reminding the fans of how dangerous this was and of how many people had died or almost died doing this stunt all was ready. With the help of a large explosion the car was released and suddenly it sped down the ramp flipped end over end off the ramp and landed on a pile of rubble. After much anticipation the rider would emerge from the car unscathed and everybody was happy except for this kid that thought it ended way too soon.

Today’s fair has replaced a lot of the more physical things with music. Famous singers and bands aren’t all bad. I guess I’ll always miss the excitement generated by those races and thrill shows.

The Demo Derby draws big crowds and this year there will be a professional rodeo so I guess there’s still something for the little bit of thrill seeker in all of us.

One of the best things for me about today’s fair is that I can go and check out the grandkids’ 4-H projects.

Here are a few fishing reports from around the state:

FAIRMONT – Nightcrawlers continue to trigger catfish at Hall Lake and Amber

Lake. Crappies are hitting in eight feet of water at George Lake, Budd Lake, and Hall. The docks of George Lake also are worth checking for bluegills.

FARIBAULT – Look for suspended crappies on Roberds Lake and Lake Mazaska over

20 feet. Northern pike are hitting sucker minnows on the weedlines of Kelley Dudley

Lake and crankbaits on the sharp breaks of Shields Lake. Pitch surface baits or bucktails near the docks on French Lake for muskies. Cedar Lake remains the areas best largemouth bass option.

MANKATO – Throwing Rapala X-Raps in 14 feet around Grassy Island or in Bakers

Bay on Lake Washington and in the narrows of Madison Lake has produced walleyes. A jig and minnow or crawler and spinner has triggered walleyes on the south end of Lake Hanska. Look to Lake Francis for sunfish in less than 10 feet and northern pike are cruising the weed edge and hitting minnows on Little Jefferson Lake.

WATERVILLE – Northern pike continue to hit minnows or spoon plugs in eight feet at Lake Sakatah and Lake Tetonka. The mouth of the lagoon on Tetonka is giving up crappies in eight to 10 feet. Look to Roemhildt Lake for walleyes and crappies during the evening hours.

LEECH LAKE – Look for walleyes on the bars and shoreline breaks in 20 feet of water. Bottom bouncers and crawlers, Lindy Rigs and leeches, or a jig and minnow have all worked. There’s some evening trolling action with Shad Raps or Minnow.

Raps in eight to 12 feet. Bass fishing has been excellent in most weedy bays and muskies continue to follow baits, but won’t commit to them.

LAKE WINNIBIGOSHISH – Short Lindy Rigs and minnows started producing good-sized perch in 18 to 25 feet on Moses Bar, Sugar Bar, and the Snaghole. You’ll also find perch on the 15- foot rocks of Ravens Point. Walleyes are hitting leeches and crawlers in 18 to 22 feet at Moxes Hole, Moses Bar, the humps, and Sugar Bar.

ALEXANDRIA – Work the deep weed edges on Lake Miltona and Lake Ida for walleyes during the evening hours. Spinner rigs and leeches continue to turn walleyes in 14 to 20 feet at Lake Reno and Lake Mary. The 10- to 16- foot weedlines of lakes Darling, Carlos, Geneva, and Le Homme Dieu are holding crappies. Bass are hitting crankbaits or plastics on the deep weeds or flats of most lakes.

BATTLE LAKE – Lindy Rigs and leeches are producing walleyes in 18 to 25 feet West Battle Lake, Johnson Lake, Stalker Lake, and Otter Tail Lake. Northern pike are hitting sucker minnows in the weeds at Clitherall Lake, West Battle, and Otter Tail. Look for suspended sunfish over 18 to 20 feet at West Battle, Stalker, and Clitherall. Work the deep weedlines with plastics for bass on Ten Mile Lake, Clitherall, and Stalker. Crappies are suspended over 15 to 20 feet at West Battle and Stalker.

BRAINERD/NISSWA – Look for some evening walleye action in 20 to 30 feet at Gull Lake, North Long Lake, Pelican Lake, and Round Lake. Live bait rigs tipped with leeches, crawlers, or minnows are working best. Crappies are being found suspended along the established weed edges and sunfish are coming off the areas small lakes in 12 to 16 feet. Bass and northern pike also can be had on the deep weedlines.

Until next time, play safe, good fishn’ and enjoy the outdoors.

Please continue to show your support for those that have chosen to proudly serve their country.