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4H close to being heart of county fair

Wilson Gratz, left, and Hattie Kragenbring work Tuesday at the Kandiyohi County Fair in Willmar on their 11-step rube goldberg machine that zips a zipper. Tribune photo by Kyle Rozendaal

WILLMAR — The Kandiyohi County Fair officially opens today at 11 a.m. but the fairgrounds in Willmar were abuzz Tuesday with a multitude of different people preparing for the four-day-long celebration of Kandiyohi County.

It was a big day for Kandiyohi County 4-H’ers on Tuesday as they brought their finished projects to the fair, sat down for an interview with a judge and were awarded a ribbon based on what the judges thought the project deserved.

Kandiyohi County 4-H’ers choose and complete any number of projects during the year from a variety of categories like livestock, fashion, woodworking, model building, horticulture and many others.

“The first thing I do is ask them to explain their project to find out if they really put the time in to complete and understand their project,” said Amy Rager, a 4-H project judge at the Kandiyohi County Fair. “I then try and give some helpful advice for where they could improve and praise them for things that they did well.”

Rager went on to explain Tuesday that ribbons are awarded for different levels of dedication to the project: white ribbons are awarded for a project that needs improvement and some dedication was seen, red ribbons are awarded for a project that shows some expertise or knowledge of the project, blue ribbons are awarded for a project that shows a high level of dedication and knowledge and the purple ribbon is awarded to the category project champion that the judge thinks is State Fair material.

“We did a Rube Goldberg machine to zip a zipper because we wanted to try something different!” said Hattie Kragenbring, a 4-H’er from Atwater. “It took a lot of work to get right, but it was a lot of fun.”

“After 30 years of judging I’ve realized that you have to recognize the effort that’s put into these projects,” said Steve Zenk after awarding a blue ribbon to Kragenbring’s group on Tuesday.

Open-class submissions and judging also took place on Tuesday with people from of all ages arriving a day early to submit needlecrafts, baked goods, photographs and plants that were judged Tuesday night.

Workers for MCM Shows Inc. were also at the fairgrounds Tuesday, piecing together the amusement rides that will serve as the week’s thrilling entertainment for those daring enough to ride. Show workers said it takes a little over 12 hours to fully build and power the attractions unless there are community volunteers to help.

Food stands, booths promoting political candidates and local businesses, and other tents promoting local auto businesses were all put together by those running them on Tuesday to ensure everything is set and ready for the grand opening today.

All 4-H projects and open-class submissions will be on display with their awards for the duration of the fair.

The 4-H dog agility judging is from 8 a.m. to noon today, pig racing at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., KRA stock car racing at 6:30 p.m. and professional bull riding taking place at 7:30 p.m.