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Fair offers a bit of everything for everyone

Marie Nilles-Melchert, 16, of Willmar grooms her horse, Sash, outside the horse barn Wednesday in preparation for judging at the Kandiyohi County Fairgrounds in Willmar. Open horse judging kicks off a full schedule of events at 10 a.m. today. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

Visitors from around the area flocked Wednesday to the Kandiyohi County Fairgrounds in Willmar for the county fair's opening day.

They came, though, for all sorts of different reasons.

For Lloyd and Julie Nelson of Atwater, it's all about the stock car racing at the Grandstand. They've been coming to see that, they said, for as long as they can remember. This year, they'll be watching their relative, Craig Christiansen, race his modified stock car.

"I'd love to see the bull riding, but they have it at the same time," said Lloyd Nelson.

Julene Towles, 5, didn't hesitate to say what brought her to the fair this year.

"The rollercoaster," she said.

She sat near the dairy building drinking milkshakes along with her 10-month-old brother, Tanis, and her parents, Mike and Alyssa Towles. They said having a place to go as a family was their reason for making the trip from their home in Atwater this year.

"It's just a good way to get out of the house," Mike Towles said.

It took the coaxing of Peggy Steinman's 5-year-old grandson, Aidan, to get her to finally come down to her first visit to the fair in 10 years of living in Willmar. She said that she was glad she did as she watched him ride the carousel and try to win cheap prizes at one of many games on the midway on Wednesday afternoon.

Cliff Larson, Jr. and Cliff Larson III, board members of Lake Country Energy, LLC, were at the fair to promote awareness of a wind energy project underway on U.S. Highway 12 from Kandiyohi to Grove City. They sat at a table at the Hall of Industry, handing out fliers.

Also at the fair promoting wind energy was Joyce Swenson, a volunteer at the Minnesota Farmers Union table. She said the organization tries to feature an issue that's popular among the general public. This year, that meant alternative energy.

"It's kind of the future," she said.

Members of the folk trio Heartstrings came to the fair this year to play a free show at the Heritage Square on Wednesday. The band mates -- Paulette Reigstad, her sister, Donna Bonawitz, and daughter, Melissa Carlson -- joked that they were there playing for their relatives, some of whom were among the thin early afternoon crowd watching their performance.

At the 4-H barn, Brent and Kristine Magaard lounged on hay bales with their four sons: Jake, 10, Will, 7, Chase, 5, and Avery, 1. The three older boys were at the fair to show the two massive black angus heifers lying nearby.

Their showing today at 8 a.m. will be the family's main event at the fair this year, said Brent Magaard, who farms near Sunburg.

"They've been looking after them for awhile," he said of his sons and the two heifers.

For Kandiyohi County Fair Association secretary Cheryl Johnson, her reason to come out to the fair is to help out with the day-to-day administration of fair activities, but also, she said, for entertainment like the talent shows and free shows at the Heritage Square.

That hasn't always been the case, though.

"In High School it was the water fights down at the barn," she said.