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Locals relish their ties to state fair

Every year more than a million of people flock to the Minnesota State Fair to see the exhibits and eat some of their favorite foods. But of course, there are also the people who make the fair what it is.

The Bulletin found more than a few local connections to the Great Minnesota Get Together.

Fair food favorites

One of the highlights at the Minnesota State Fair, for many people, is the food.

"It's the different foods you can get only once a year," said Paul Hohenwald, Woodbury resident and owner of Coasters, a bar and grill near the Midway that has become a popular fair hangout for its live music performances.

Hohenwald and his brother Mike have been working at the fair in some fashion since they were kids. Their father opened Al's Quick Lunch more than 50 years ago.

"We originally had multiple stands at the fair when nobody wanted to do the fair," Paul Hohenwald said.

"Being a part of the fair just kind of gets into your blood," Paul Hohenwald said. "Every day is a new experience."

Just south of the Midway between the coliseum and the cattle barn, Donna Battcher has kept it real for residents with Donna's-Bar-B-Q, a sandwich stand she has operated for several years after originally opening a peanut stand with her husband in 1983.

"We used to come to the fair all the time and we enjoyed it so much," Battcher said.

Battcher said she is hoping to one day pass her stand off to her grandchildren.

"But I'll stay here at the fair for as long as I can walk," she said.

At home in the barns

Windy Ridge Ranch, in Woodbury, has quite the presence every year at the State Fair in both the stables and the horse shows at the Warner Coliseum.

Over the last 26 years, the ranch has won numerous trophies and ribbons.

This year, Windy Ridge Ranch owner Mark Ward will take 36 horses, and 55 riders, with him to the fair.

"We bring more horses than anyone as far as I know," Ward said. "Most of the horses take their State fair visit quite well since they get to be with their buddies."

Ward, his riders and the horses are participating in a variety of horse shows including the drill team, the English and western shows, barrel racing and ribbon racing.

Other local residents bringing animals to the fair include Woodbury residents Andrew Bowman, of Washington County 4-H, who is bringing his beef steer and Eddie and Tommy Clymer, of Washington County 4-H, who will be bringing their pigs. The Clymer brothers each took home a ribbon for their swine.

"It's fun to be able to come here and be a part of the tradition," said Tommy, a Woodbury High School senior.

Going for the blue

Several Woodbury residents competed at the fair in sewing, quilting, baking and music.

Woodbury resident Laura Irvine, 12, has been a member of the Washington County 4-H since she was in third grade, but this was the first year she could be a part of the Minnesota State Fair.

Irvine, a student at Math and Science Academy, has a quilt on display in the 4-H Building this year.

"It's a lot of fun to show what you've done in 4-H," she said.

Irvine said she began working on her quilt back in February before finishing it this spring.

Even though many people enter the fair strictly for the coveted blue ribbon, Irvine said she is doing it strictly for fun.

"If my projects are good enough, I'll keep entering things in the fair every year," she said.

Several local residents have already won blue ribbons at the fair this year including Woodbury residents Allison Holbrook, gluten-free baking; Katherine Buenger, loom weaving; Terri Bay, embroidery; and Afton resident Donna Hanson for loom weaving. These projects are on display in the Creative Activities Building.

A young group of Woodbury musicians made their debut performance at the fair on its first day and were hoping to win a gig at the Grand Stand later this week.

The band Blatant Youth is made up of Woodbury residents Collin Johnson, Jake Luppen and Zach Sutton and Sam Mathys of Savage.

The young musicians write and play their own music, something Jake Luppen said is exciting to do in front of a live crowd at the fair.

"We love playing together and to do it at the fair is an awesome venue," Jake said.

During their performance last Thursday, the band played their original song "Mind Reader," which can be heard on their website

The band is slated to perform Wednesday in the semi-finals of the amateur talent show. If they make it to the finals they will get to play Sept. 5 in the Grandstand.

- Hank Long and Amber Kispert