by Jim Boyle
Velvet Longtin and her daughter, Tayah Falls, 8, fell in love with monarch butterflies three years ago at the Mille Lacs County fairgrounds.
They now raise the fluttery creatures, and the Princeton duo have brought a butterfly house to life at the Sherburne County Fair with dozens of their own butterflies. It will be one of several new attractions at this year’s four-day event in Elk River, which is slated to kick of Thursday, July 19.
“Our next generation of (fair-goers) is coming,” said Irene Kostreba. “We so want to make it a family-friendly event that attracts kids back again and again.”
The butterfly house was made possible by a state grant from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and Velvet’s help. Sherburne County Sentence to Serve built the enclosure, and Longtin did the landscaping.
“I don’t know if they will fly on you or stay away,” said Longtin, who raised 200 butterflies this past year. Either way, visitors will get a good look at the creatures that migrate back and forth from here to Texas and Mexico in stages, as each generation replaces the next.
The exhibit is free, just like the new mini corn maze that has been added by the Sherburne County Junior Master Gardeners to the fairgrounds over by Lake Orono and the Elk River YMCA.
Another new feature at this year’s Sherburne County Fair will be donkey races at 6:30 p.m. on opening night.
“We’ve got teams lined up from county-wide fire, county-wide police, 4-H alumni and one from Domino’s Pizza out of Elk River,” said Lori Sowers, the fair board president. “It’s going to be pretty exciting.”
Thursday is also Day Care Day from noon to 5 p.m.
Friday’s Sherburne County Fair Parade, which lines up on Main Street and parades over the Orono dam before making it to the fairgrounds on Orono Parkway, will start at 6:30 p.m. The parade grand marshals are returning soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The grandstand will feature ATV soccer, which was an immediate hit during a trial at last year’s fair.
Iron Horse will play in Lions Garden starting at 8 p.m. Friday.
Boogie Wonderland will perform at Lions Garden the following night, also at 8 p.m.
The YMCA is sponsoring a 5K run and walk Saturday, July 21. More than 100 have already registered, according to Molly Hanson, director of the branch. Registration, which begins at 7:30 a.m., is expected to add another 50 or more. The walk starts at 8:30 a.m. There is free childcare at YMCA from 8 to 10 a.m. The race day cost of the event is $30.
Sunday there is a demolition derby in the grandstand at 6 p.m.
It is Senior Day on Sunday, July 22.
The grounds volunteers’ first project for 2012, as explained by worker and Fair Board Vice President Roger Kostreba, involved a rebuild of the announcer’s stand overlooking the horse arena.
Eagles Nest, as it has been dubbed, features a 10-by-12-foot tower that includes heating and air conditioning, windows across the upper level that allow the whole arena to be surveyed, and a staircase attached to the building’s exterior. The announcers climbed an indoor staircase to move between levels of the former stand. The new design allows more room for seating and storage. Horse shows and a wealth of other events are planned for the four-day fair, to be held July 19–22. The fair runs more than 100 horses through the event each year for various competitions.
Significant improvements also were added to the open class building, including track lighting to highlight the works on display in there for the event.
The main gate opens at 7 a.m. daily. For more information, visit www.sherburnecountyfair.org.