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Outside of the ordinary, Kandiyohi County Fair gets ready for opening day

The Kandiyohi County fairgrounds buzzed with people, machines and animals of all types Tuesday as preparation for the first day of gated admission on Wednesday.

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Seventeen-year-old Luke Ruter, foreground, and 16-year-old Braeden Erickson, background, unload the bedding for their animals in preparation for showing Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021, at the Kandiyohi County Fair. Tim Speier / West Central Tribune

WILLMAR — The Kandiyohi County Fairgrounds buzzed with people, machines and animals of all types Tuesday, as preparation for the first day of gated admission starting at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

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Enjoying the shade under the new awnings, Lyle Ruter, the 4-H sheep supervisor for the Kandiyohi County Fair, waits outside of the livestock barns for entrants to bring in their animals Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021. Tim Speier / West Central Tribune

When bringing in their animals to the Kandiyohi County Fair, one of the first stops is to talk with the animal supervisors. For Lyle Ruter, the 4-H sheep supervisor, the County Fair runs in his blood.

“Mom was at the (Kandiyohi County) Fair when her water broke,” Ruter said.

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Now with kids of his own, Ruter was glad that they were able to have the fair this year as “the kids work hard” all year to prepare their animals to show.

He also talked about how his family has their “lifelong fair friends” they have not seen in almost two years after the 2020 event was canceled due to the pandemic.

After checking in, entrants prepared designated areas for their animals.

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Spending time with her goats Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021, at the Kandiyohi County Fair, 8-year-old Emma Kaehle goats want to be the center of attention. Tim Speier / West Central Tribune

They are provided with space in the buildings, but taking care of the animals is each entrant's responsibility, which includes everything from checking on sufficient water and food to cleaning up after any messes left behind.

For 8-year-old Emma Kaehler, that responsibility took the form of spending time in the provided pens with her goats, keeping the animals calm after a the trip to the fairgrounds.

While all the animals and their handlers were getting settled, Dale Fladeboe parked his custom-made 1967 tractor in the shade of a tree in a different part of the fairgrounds.

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Dale Fladeboe sits on his custom-made 1967 tractor Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021, at the Kandiyohi County Fair. Tim Speier / West Central Tribune

The tractor itself was built piece by piece from parts of other machines. Fladeboe started piecing everything together in 1966 by first acquiring an engine out of an old John Deere 12A to give power to his chain-drive tractor.

Fladeboe used a three-speed transmission out of ‘57 Plymouth and two differentials out of an old Ford to put the tractor together over the course of a year. To steer the tractor, he hooked up two drum brakes, connected by two levers, to both sides of the drive axles, using the power distribution of the differentials to steer his handmade tractor.

As time went on, the tractor was eventually put in his barn for a “few years,” until one day his grandson asked if it would still run because he wanted to drive it.

Fladeboe not only got it running but decided that it would be a good time to enter it into the fair as he’s “not sure how much time we (the tractor and himself) have left.”

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Clowning around is serious business when bucking bulls are involved for both Frank Lillard(L) and Faron Rowe(R) as they prepare for the rodeo Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021, at the Kandiyohi County Fair. Tim Speier / West Central Tribune

Exhibitors of animals and open-class entries weren't the only people taking Tuesday to get ready for the big show. Others checking their equipment included two rodeo clowns, Frank Lillard and Faron Rowe, who will perform Wednesday evening in the bull riding.

Lillard, a former bull rider himself, started working as a rodeo clown about 15 years ago after he “became too old” for bull riding.

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After his truck engine blew up on his drive north for this year's fair, Lillard called up his longtime friend Rowe to give him a hand in getting his gear trailer to Minnesota from Missouri.

As they prepared props for the show, Lillard talked about how those involved within the rodeo rely on each other.

Lillard said, as a clown in the ring, his job is mainly to distract the bull after the rider gets bucked off and to keep the crowd entertained during the slow moments.

“You hope to distract the bull, but you need to be willing to jump in and take the hook,” said Lillard.

More information on entries and all other activities, including the schedule for the full duration of the fair through Saturday, can be found at kandifair.com .

Tim Speier joined the Brainerd Dispatch in October 2021, covering Public Safety.
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