The Fair is on, though watch out for those detours
WASHINGTON COUNTY — Put down that smartphone. You've binged enough on "The Handmaid's Tale" and "Game of Thrones."
Binge on fresh country air instead. The Washington County Fair opens Wednesday and runs through Sunday, Aug. 5. Enjoy food, carnival rides, truck pulls, live music, arts and crafts and 4-H live animal exhibits. Live shows include country singer Tim Sigler 8 p.m. Friday and the Red Rock Swing Band 3 p.m. Sunday.
And let's not forget the Pig Tail Pig Races, where the finest of the swinest race around a small track. The first one across the finish line gets to gobble a cookie.
Fair manager Dorie Ostertag said visitors will find improved infrastructure at this year's fair.
"We've done a lot of maintenance," she said. "We've got new blacktop and we've updated the bathrooms."
Detour alert: motorists will not be able to access the South Parking Lot directly from Manning Avenue. It's being resurfaced as part of the Manning Avenue (County Highway 15) Corridor Management and Safety Improvement Project. Motorists should follow the signed detour to access the 40th Street entrance.
"The South lot is open," project manager Nathan Arnold of the Washington County Transportation Department said. "People can use the detours to get there."
New this year, Lift Bridge Brewery from Stillwater will sell their brews at the beer garden.
Fair highlights include the opening day parade 6 p.m. Wednesday, helicopter rides beginning 3 p.m. Thursday, BMX Bike Mega Jump show 7 p.m. Friday and the Demolition Derby 6 p.m. Saturday.
The foundation of the fair is, of course, 4-H. The science of animal husbandry — the raising and care of domestic animals — is a crucial part of the food chain and one of the main reasons county fairs started in the 19th century.
This year, more than 500 young people from 4-H will present exhibits ranging from food and nutrition to dairy cattle and poultry. Other events will include STEM activities, livestock shows every day, an Arts-In performance twice a day, dog agility demonstrations, llamas and a livestock auction.
Local clubs include the Woodbury 4-H Club, Country Cousins, Riverside Routers, Happy Hornets and Lucky Clovers 4-H Clubs.
Jeff and Jolene Abelson of Cottage Grove got sold on 4-H when their children, Carly and Grant, were little.
"It was pretty new to us," she said. "We kept going out to the county fair because our kids love animals. Every time we'd got through the animal barns and the kids were amazing. They were responsible, they were mature, they were willing to talk to four-year-olds about their animals. They kind of had a poise about them."
Now teenagers, Carly and Grant have entered numerous 4-H projects in county fairs, including those related to photography, gardening, cooking, needle arts, lake pollution and the effects of smoking.
Heather and Jim Verdick of Cottage Grove are helping to build a 4-H dynasty of sorts. Their three children, Sam, Grace and Joe, have been in 4-H since kindergarten.
"I was in 4-H as a kid as well, and so was my dad, so my kids are third generation 4-H," Heather Verdick said. Twelve of her 13 nieces and nephews here and out of state are also 4 H members. The 13th is too young.
Her eldest son, Sam, 19, developed confidence and skill as an actor through 4-H, she said. He performed in numerous productions at Park High School and now is now majoring in theater at Minnesota State University Mankato. At this year's Washington County Fair, he'll appear in the live 4-H performance shows. Siblings Grace, 17, and Joe, 15, have each raised chickens and will be competing for ribbons in the poultry division.
Heather Verdick likes 4-H because, "You can still participate in something as a whole family. It's not just boys, it's not just girls. We're all involved. My husband and I volunteer. We help with arts programs. It's such a positive leadership activity that they start so young at kindergarten and they look up to these kids who are mentoring them and eventually they are mentoring the younger kids."
From Highway 36
• North Lot: South on Lake Elmo Ave (County 17) to Stillwater Blvd (County 14). East on County 14 to Fairgrounds.
• South Lot: South on Osgood Ave (County 24), continue straight on Olinda Blvd (County 14). West on County 14 to Fairgrounds.
From Interstate 94
• North Lot: North on Manning Ave (County 15) to Fairgrounds.
• South Lot: North on Manning Ave (County 15) to 10th St (County 10). East on County 10 then North on Oakgreen Ave (County 65). West on 40th Street (County 14) to Fairgrounds.