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Kandiyohi County Fairgrounds bustle with Entry Day activity

Bailey Hovland / Tribune Yvonne Zupke ties a tag for one of her entries in the floriculture division Tuesday afternoon at the Kandiyohi County Fairgrounds in Willmar. Zupke also volunteers to help other entrants prepare their exhibits.1 / 4
Bailey Hovland / Tribune Fair food vendors set up shop on Tuesday, the day before the fairgrounds open to the public.2 / 4
Bailey Hovland / Tribune Fair food vendors set up shop on Tuesday, the day before the fairgrounds open to the public.3 / 4
Bailey Hovland / Tribune Grace Kaehler brushes three of her goats — Pedro, Napoleon and Rico — before judging begins Tuesday for the open goat division at the Kandiyohi County Fair. Entry Day was Tuesday, and gates open to the public today.4 / 4

WILLMAR — In the muggy and overcast weather, the Kandiyohi County Fairgrounds was bustling with activity Tuesday afternoon in Willmar.

Fair rides were unfurled from their metal constraints, lifted from their trailers into the sky. Goats and horses were led from livestock trailers into their pens, bedded with hay. Rabbits and poultry were carried into the barn, all in preparation for the first day of entries and interviews at the Kandiyohi County Fair.

In one of the livestock barns, Grace Kaehler watched over her animals, making sure they were brushed and not butting heads over their shared food dish.

"I've got these six goats, and then I show sheep too, and I do photography. I got about 30 minutes before I should get my pictures in," said Kaehler with a laugh.

While the fair opens to the public Wednesday, it was a full day of activity Tuesday at the fairgrounds as exhibitors young and old brought their entries to be judged.

"I'm showing these goats in the open competition," Kaehler said. "And they don't have as many guidelines as the 4-H showing. But there are still some guidelines, like you can't bring bucks to the fair, and they have to be within a certain weight limit. These guys have to be over 40 pounds but less than 100 pounds."

By evening Kaehler would be bringing her four-legged friends to goat judging, where both open class and FFA competitors would display their animals. The 4-H livestock interviews and rabbit entries were conducted over the course of several hours Tuesday afternoon and evening, as well as 4-H poultry entries. The horse conference judging was the last livestock event of the day, starting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday evening.

Non-livestock entries were also accepted throughout the entire day, with judging at 7 p.m. as the fairgrounds would begin to quiet down after a long day of entries.

Over in front of the Exhibit III building, Yvonne Zupke arranged flowers in small glass vases, preparing her and her husband's entries in the floriculture division.

"There's seven for my husband, and — two, four, six, eight — eleven total for me" she said.

"The gladiolus are my husband's and the rest are mine. He loves gladiolus but I said 'They're too much work, I don't want to dig them up every year.' They don't last in Minnesota, because of the cold weather, so you have to dig them up every year and keep them," she said as she gestured to the vibrant red, purple, pink, and yellow flowers.

Zupke is a veteran of the Kandiyohi County Fair, participating in the floral entries for the past several years and working as a volunteer to help other entrants with their flowers.

"I enter, and when I'm done entering, I will stay and volunteer," she said, helping the other entrants get their flowers ready.

"Tell them what to do, make sure they have enough. So I just help them navigate everything," she said.

Zupke's enthusiasm for floriculture at the County Fair was obvious, seen in her dedication to helping other participants and in her careful arrangement of each vase.

"These are hostas, and this is called a false sunflower, yes, and it's a perennial — grows really tall, it's gorgeous. These are perennial phlox, sedum, and this is a miniature lilac," Zupke said, pointing to the various arrangements of flowers crowding the table.

Across from Zupkes post outside the Exhibit III building, workers set up fair rides and food stands, working hard through the humid afternoon to make sure everything was ready for the next day.

The fairground gates open at 11 a.m. Wednesday, kicking off with the Prairie Winds Summer Band on the Heritage Square Stage. The day's theme focuses on veterans, honoring Americans who have served in the military. The fair continues through Saturday.

To see the full fair schedule, check out