By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — After missing out last year due to COVID-19, county fairs are back across the state, including the Stearns County Fair in Sauk Centre, where people have been waiting to get back together for about two years.

This is the 119th year of the Stearns County Fair. Admission is free for the Stearns County Fair and each year they estimate that about 30,000 people walk through their gates.

Not only are the people back together, but so are the animals in the livestock barn including cows, chickens, sheep, and even llamas.

Last year, Hailey Frericks, with Albany Southsiders 4-H, had to show her cows virtually. This year, her red and white summer yearling named Kinky was front and center.

“I’ve been showing since about kindergarten, showing dairy cattle. It’s been a really rewarding experience,” Frericks said. “That’s what makes it so fun, is the people and everything that’s going on.”

Melrose 4-H’ers Austin Reuter and Quentin Van Beck agree, but instead of cows, they specialize in pigs.

“Bring them to the fair. Wash them up, keep them nice and cool in the hot weather. Make sure they have food and water and keep their bedding clean,” Van Beck said.

At least this year they can show off their pretty faces in front of a crowd.

“At first I was like, ‘Oh geez, I forgot how to do all of this.’ Made a list. Now that we are here, everything feels normal again,” Van Beck said.

This fair is unique in that it has a demolition derby Thursday, Friday and Saturday night that draws a crowd.

Also, the Sauk Centre Conservation Club and a group called Fishing For Life set up a trout tank in the conservation building. For $3, kids get seven minutes to pull in a fish.

“If they have a tagged fish and they catch one, they get a fishing pole. If they catch a fish they get some fishing tackle. They get something,” Jeff Mayer said.

But there’s no special prize if the trout jumps off your line and then you snag the overhead light, like WCCO’s John Lauritsen did. Many of the volunteers are kids on the trapshooting team.

“It’s awesome. Last year was tough on the kids especially. For them to get back out and do these things again, they really have a lot of appreciation for it,” Jeff Schuster, archery and trapshooting coach, said.

The fair runs through Sunday.

John Lauritsen