By Barbie Porter
The East Otter Tail County Fair returns with family fun for everyone and updates to its historic buildings.
The event, which goes from July 22-25, is celebrating 110 years. For the regulars that visit and enjoy the rides, concerts, tractor pulls, demo derbies and many other events, the buildings are a familiar sight.
Diane Sazama, treasurer for the fair, said the building upgrades done since the fair was last held in 2019 are noticeable. The Main Exhibit Building dates back to the 1930s. While it had been added onto, the roof on the main area was in dire need of repair. She recalled when rain fell, buckets were placed strategically to catch and discard as much water as possible.
Now, the new steel roof provides protection for the vendors often found in the building during the fair. Sazama added the fair board is also in the process of creating a room for nursing mothers in the building as well.
“The roof was expensive, but it was needed,” she said. “And it has made a big difference.”
She added towards the peak of the roof there were also window openings created to allow for more natural light inside the building. The next project for the historical building will be installing steel siding to preserve the remainder of the exterior. Sazama noted much of the funds raised for such projects come from grants, sponsorships and the annual pancake breakfast on Sunday, July 25 from 8 a.m. until noon.
Sponsorships also help pay the bills and provide a variety of entertainment at the fair.
“The sponsorships get better every year and it amazes me the support we get,” Sazama said. “Even last year before we knew if we would be able to have it because of COVID, we were still getting sponsorships.”
She added the support the fair received helped cover the costs that didn’t take a hiatus during the pandemic.
The updates also included a complete renovation of the wildlife building. Sazama said the outside was showing its age, so a new roof was installed two years back, and steel siding was put in place more recently. Sazama opened the doors to the building and it was quickly noticeable that the 11 pens inside and three outside had been updated as well.
“We added a safety barrier,” she said. “Before kids could reach in and these are wild fur bearing animals. We couldn’t have that and take that chance, so we added a barrier.”
Sazma explained the pens may include fox, bobcat, porcupine, skunks and more. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources also bring fish for display.
The fair’s board will also be replacing a ticket booth and conducting other updates to keep the buildings welcoming to its guests. On average, Sazama estimated about 15,000 people attend the East Otter Tail County Fair annually.
“We’re thinking this year might be a record year because people want to get out and do things,” she said. “For many, coming to the fair becomes a way to connect with friends.”
Sazma joined as a volunteer for the fair along with her husband about 19 years ago. She managed the children’s barn, where kids were able to pet animals or hold baby chics. She noted there was one kid, who year after year, would seek out the barn and take naps with the animals. In time, Sazama was asked to join the board and promoted in 2009 to secretary/treasurer.
“We are always looking for volunteers,” she said, adding any clubs or organizations looking to raise money (this year or next) should contact her for more details at (218) 849-7520 or firstname.lastname@example.org.