Milder weather welcomed at fair

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.

Sherburne County Sheriff Joel Brott was armed with candy during the Sherburne County Fair parade as emergency lights swirled in the air.

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.

ATV soccer provided entertainment in the grandstand after the parade. The Boss Connection — with Brent Baas, Josh Wergin and James Kirchenbauer — won. Photo by Jim Boyle

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.

Ben Vrchota of the Navigators 4-H club based in Elk River, places chicken quarters dressed with barbecue sauce, lemon-lime soda and fresh chunk pineapple over heated charcoal for a grilling competition sponsored by Gold’n Plump. Though the rules forbade him from speaking during the contest, he later said his preparation of the chicken was similar to a dish that the public could buy in the 4-H food stand at the fair. Ben said he is a 4-H ambassador and that he wants other youth to know the program offers much more than livestock training. “It’s opened up a lot of experience for youth leadership,” he said. Photos by Paul Rignell

“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.

The Minnesota National Guard provided some high-flying entertainment again at this year’s county fair.

“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.

Sam Manning, Matt Vrchota and Ben Manning share a mic for a number in their annual 4-H musical, which the cast and crew presented up to four times daily on the free stage at the Sherburne County Fair. Working popular music into an original story (about a youth band on a world tour), Abbey Oelke wrote the script for the production that was choreographed by Andrea Anderson and directed by Melinda Singleton.
The troupe has been promised the opportunity to present the musical twice at the Minnesota State Fair.

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.

Parade winners

1st place: Olive to Tan

2nd place: Coborn’s-4 Star

3rd: Elk River Dance

ATV soccer

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

Teen Idol

1st: Olivia Robinson

2nd: Kenzie Miller

3rd: Alison Hudson

Battle of the Bands

1st: Whosah

2nd: Dirty Circus

3rd: My name is Elipise