This month, we asked our readers to submit replies to the following...
Whether it’s a local county fair or the North Dakota State Fair, what’s your favorite memory of a fair in North Dakota?
GOING BACK IN TIME
The first call of the bugle. Typically, in military terms, it’s meant as a rise-and-shine call. But to those of us who spend the whole nine days of the North Dakota State Fair in tents, wigwams and tepees, it’s a warning call. The gates are open.
The North Dakota State Fair is a busy place. People from all over travel to Minot to watch their favorite entertainment in the grandstand, enjoy the multitude of thrilling rides, and eat the famed fair food on the midway.
But amongst all the business, enclosed within a little fence is a place where you can go back in time, to the age of the fur trade. At 11 a.m., when the bugle rings in the late morning air, there’s a buzz of excitement as we prepare to give the fairgoers an educational, yet entertaining, journey.
As a young girl, I always watched our visitors stream in and out of our rendezvous camp. I’d always felt proud that I could be doing something to educate the public. Now, as I continue into my later teenage years, I still find myself ready to burst with that same excitement when I hear the bugle’s call. I’ve spent years entertaining myself with different activities, such as helping my mother bake in the adobe oven, watching the blacksmith work on the forge, or even just roaming the various shops in camp.
With all the rush and the excitement, I know I’ll be doing this for years to come.
Elle Duckwitz | Member of Capital Electric Cooperative
KEEPING A PROMISE
It was the first year for our family showing 4-H cattle and we were as green as green could be. My son, Slade, had a little pail calf named Jennifer and he was so excited to show his first calf at the fair. (He confessed years later that the reason he named his little heifer Jennifer was because he liked his babysitter, and that was her name.)
We also had a family musical group, called “Prairie Rose and the Sidekicks.” We had an engagement booked long before the fair and we had to do a performance 120 miles away from the Wells County Fair. He did not want to leave his little calf. He told me, “Mom, promise me that we sing, come back from Bismarck, and go straight to the fair, and you and I sleep in our vehicle to stay near Jennifer.”
When we returned home with his two little sisters and his dad, we unloaded the car, and Slade and I took off for Fessenden. My husband, Wade, said, “Are you really going to go and sleep in the vehicle when you could crawl into your bed right now?” I said, “Yes.” And away us two went. By this time, it was probably midnight or later.
When we got there, we went in to see his little calf, and then curled up in the back of our vehicle. When we laid down to sleep, my son and I said our prayers. I will never forget my little boy saying, “Thank you, God, that my mommy kept her promise.” His last words to me before he fell asleep were, “Thank you, Mom, for keeping your promise.” And at 6 a.m., I had journaled that Slade’s first words that morning were, “I love you, Mom.” Can there be any memory greater than that at our little local county fair?
Cathy Unterseher | Member of Northern Plains Electric Cooperative
My children nominated me for the Farm & Ranch Guide’s “Country Woman of the Year.” When I received a phone call that I was one of the six finalists, it was unbelievable. Candidates came from North Dakota, western Minnesota, eastern Montana and northern South Dakota. All the finalists were great women!
My trip to Minot for the special occasion was fantastic. My spouse, seven children and spouses and grandkids were there to cheer me on – 25 out of 30 was awesome. Mikey Hoeven, who was North Dakota’s first lady at the time, was the guest speaker. I was named the “first runner-up” and it was very touching.
Later, we went on carnival rides with family and I was interviewed by a radio station. When my husband and I stopped on the way home for supper at Bismarck, my name tag was still on and I was recognized by a person who heard me being interviewed on the radio station. It was awesome to be congratulated by a stranger.
I will never forget that special time at the North Dakota State Fair, especially my children for nominating me for Country Woman of the Year. Thank you for this honor. I will treasure it forever.
Ruby Koepplin | Member of Mor-Gran-Sou Electric Cooperative
I’ve been to the North Dakota State Fair a number of times over the years, but I will always remember attending it for the first time. I was about 13. The fair is held in July, when it is always hot, hot and more hot in North Dakota. My sister and I were melting in the heat. We sought relief in the horse barns, where huge fans kept the sweat off. And we were both horse lovers, so win-win.
The heat kept the pace of the fair at a nice easy stroll and by evening, the scorching sun began to ease its sweltering hold. I remember getting a cup of ice-cold milk from a booth in the dairy barn and how its creamy coolness refreshed and revived me better than any soda ever could. To this day, I opt for that cold glass of milk over any other beverage on a scorching hot day.
As the evening breeze settled in, we took a ride on the ferris wheel and meandered through the midway.
My dad, who was an avid Kenny Rogers fan, had overheard someone trying to sell their tickets for the show that evening. My dad was ecstatic. Next thing we knew, we were sitting in the grandstand waiting for the start of a show that is forever etched into my memory. I’ll never forget sitting there and stealing side glances at my dad, who was riveted to the country western icon’s stellar concert. His sheer delight was easy to see. I wasn’t much of a fan before that, but to this day when I hear his music, I can’t help but think of that show, my dad, and the best trip I ever had to the North Dakota State Fair.
Susan Schmitt | Member of Slope Electric Cooperative
My favorite memory is as a 4-H kid at the Bottineau County Fair in the late 1980s. For four days, a mini-city of half a dozen tents and campers set up against the north fence, away from the midway and main attractions. We were left undisturbed and free from adult supervision for the most part. They were around to ensure we were fed and watered.
Otherwise, we ran in motley packs down to the livestock barns to feed animals, played card games on straw bales, and formed friendships that were renewed every year. Everyone looked out for everyone else, with dads helping with stubborn steers, and moms getting the kid with his finger stuck in the spare tire hub to the emergency room (it really happened).
We (parents and kids alike) made it to Sunday night a little exhausted and a lot sunburnt, but with memories I remember to this day. I think fondly back to those days, when kids could be kids!
Lorilie Atkinson | Member of North Central Electric Cooperative
RIDING THE SCRAMBLER
As a young child, in the later 1950s and early 1960s, when summertime arrived, I could hardly wait for the Fourth of July to roll around. We would have a fun family outing to the Stutsman County Fair in Jamestown. Then, it was located where the Jack Brown Stadium now stands.
My favorite memories of the fair were sitting in the grandstand watching Mom participate in the cow milking contest, the Joie Chitwood Thrill Show, and the fun expressions and laughter from Dad during the performance.
But one of my greatest thrills was riding on the scrambler!
Robin Dunwoody | Member of Northern Plains Electric Cooperative
Our children are all grown and have their own children now, but I will always remember when they were in 4-H, and showed animals at the Tri-County Fair in Wishek. They worked with dairy cattle, sheep, pigs, rabbits and chickens. We would prepare for days to take the animals for showing. It was such a great family time for us.
My children’s father passed away suddenly at a young age, but the memories they have of him are always with them. The children still talk about the fun time with Dad and Mom showing animals at the fair, and, of course, the hard work involved to prepare them to show.
Kathy Jacobson | Member of Dickey Rural Network
AUGUST: As freshman students start college, what’s the best piece of advice you can offer them?
Deadline for submission: July 13
SEPTEMBER: Share one of your most memorable hunting stories.
Deadline for submission: Aug. 13