by Jim Boyle
The Sherburne County Fair caught a break this year and had some of its best fair weather in years — at least by county fair standards.
“The weather was finally half-way decent,” said Irene Kostreba, a member of the Sherburne County Fair Board.
Event organizers and fairgoers have had to contend with high winds, tornadoes, scorching heat and torrential downpours. This year it got a little hot at times and rained some, but was rather comfortable otherwise.
It’s estimated that 15,000 people came out to this year’s four-day attraction, with some of the biggest crowds generated by the demolition derby. The event got heated — figuratively an literally. (See story here)
Grandstand crowds for first-time donkey races and an encore appearance of ATV soccer were not as large as was hoped.
“But those that participated and those that were in the stands had a blast,” Kostreba said.
Fair board members are excited to know that the ideas and planning for next year’s ATV soccer and donkey races has already started.
“Teams are already forming,” Kostreba said.
Milder weather parlayed one of the biggest parades in years with 120 parade entrants.
“It was our biggest parade in a few years, for sure,” said Andy Lewis, who helped coordinate this year’s parade.
The winning float was Olive to Tan followed by Coborn’s and Elk River Dance.
“We had a lot of entrants at the end,” Lewis said.
This year’s grand marshals were returning soldiers who had been deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait.
One of them was Minnesota Army National Guard Spc. Kurt Gustafson, a 2008 graduate of Elk River High School.
The 22-year-old Woodbury native who moved to Elk River when he was about 6 or 7 years old said his transition since returning from a tour in Kuwait and Iraq hasn’t been too “horribly hard.
“It has gone fairly well,” he told the Star News. “There have been moments.”
Gustafson says it has helped to come home to his hometown of Elk River in the state of Minnesota. Experiences like being a grand marshal in the Sherburne County parade help.
“It was a different feeling,” he said. “It’s good to be in a town where the support is so great. I like our community. It’s so supportive.”
The guardsman also sings praise for Minnesota, too.
“This is one of the most supported states to live in,” he said.
Gustafson felt right at home, making his way down Main Street, across the Orono Dam, onto Orono Parkway and into the Sherburne County fairgrounds. He spent a lot of time at the fair growing up, and was a member of the Troop 111 Boy Scouts when there “was only five boys.
“I enjoyed it,” he said. “Those were some of the best years of my life.”
Gustafson entered the Army National Guard the winter after he graduated from high school. He was still undecided about his future, but he had an inkling he wanted to join a branch of the military. He found the Guard to be the best fit for him. He has since discovered he would like to earn a degree in education to work with kids as a special education teacher.
Currently he works for the Elk River YMCA and has two years left on his current contract with the Guard, but he is considering being a 20-year man.
While in Iraq and Kuwait he was part of a convoy escort team that ran security for equipment transports. He was a gunner.
He admits it was a big change adjusting to military life.
“To go from a carefree lifestyle where all you have to do is decide what to do on a Friday night to having structure and tight time schedule all the time was a big change,” he said.
And then coming back to Elk River could be difficult, but it’s easier to be in a place like Elk River.
“It makes a difference,” he said.
Here are some fair results, starting with the winners of the parade.
1st place: Olive to Tan
2nd place: Coborn’s-4 Star
3rd: Elk River Dance
1st: Boss Connection (Brent Baas, Josh Wergin and and James Kirchenbauer)
2nd: Boy Scout Troop 111 (Jerry Van Tassel, Tom Larson and Keith Rischmiller)
3rd: Swinging Richards (Dillon Kulkay, Brian Dolecki and Tom Marklawitz
4-H Paint the can contest
1st: Navigators with Oscar the Grouch
2nd: Home Explorers with Dive into 4-H
3rd: Home Explorers with Mustache You
1st: Olivia Robinson
2nd: Kenzie Miller
3rd: Alison Hudson
Battle of the Bands
2nd: Dirty Circus
3rd: My name is Elipise