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Fair's been a big part of care center residents' lives

A group of Ellsworth Care Center residents shared their memories of attending the Pierce County Fair. From left to right are: Mildred Christopherson, Esther Lundgaard, Betty Willett (standing), Ron Willett, Ken K.P. Schladweiler (standing), Charlotte Krause and Evelyn Swanson. -- Photo by Bill Kirk

Remember when people dressed up to go to the Pierce County Fair?

Or when horse racing was a big fair attraction? Or when attendees brought their own lunches to the fair?

A group of Ellsworth Care Center residents has these memories from past county fairs and more. And although they don't often go to the fair now, it seems to them like only yesterday...

Mildred Christopherson and Evelyn Swanson recalled getting new clothes for the occasion. For Swanson, it was always a new dress. Christopherson wore a new hat and shoes, besides a new dress.

The latter said there were seven in her family and each of them was given a quarter to spend. Then, they faced a happy decision: would it be an ice cream cone, pop or a merry-go-round ride?

She especially enjoyed walking inside the round barn, she said. But it never seemed to her like the family could get going fast enough.

"There were farm chores to do first," she said, reflecting on a normal routine for the one day of the event's three-day run she could attend, held back then in September.

Christopherson said her family took their own lunch to the fair. They were thankful for all the shade trees, which served as a backdrop for their picnic. Homemade donuts were a favorite item on their menu.

Swanson got started at 6 or 7 a.m., she said. She liked the round barn, too, remembering all the exhibitors upstairs and a piano player up there, providing music. In addition to the merry-go-round, she got to ride the ferris wheel a lot.

"It was the one fun day of the year," she said.

Typically, four or five members of her family would go to the fair at one time, Swanson said. Around 4 or 5 p.m., their ride home would come and, invariably, someone would be missing. Any missing individuals would have to be rounded up, one at a time, before everyone could leave.

She also recalled a member of her family, Charles Kenall, bringing concord grapes to sell on the fairgrounds.

Ken K.P. Schladweiler lived in the country as a youngster, then moved to town with his family when he was age 12, he said. He'd get to go to the fair for one day.

"I rode in the horse derby when I was 12," he said, lamenting that race no longer exists.

Schladweiler showed horses at the fair throughout the 1980s, he said. His usual schedule called for showing them in the morning and riding them in the parade in the afternoon.

"We used to get stuck in the mud," he said of fairgrounds conditions which he indicated have vastly improved since then.

Working at the fair was among Esther Lundgaard's recollections. She pressed hamburgers for frying, cut up onions and cooked coffee at the Our Savior's Lutheran Church stand, she said.

Betty Willett and Charlotte Krause both baked pies to take to the fair, with the former having memories of getting up at 4 or 5 a.m. to do so. Krause cooked in the English Lutheran Church stand, walking the two miles from home to get to the fairgrounds. She believes her grandfather, George Krauss, was an early fair organizer.

Ron Willett said he won prizes for his woodworking at the fair. He got ribbons for the coffee tables and cedar trunks he made in a shop in his basement.

Because it's difficult for some care center residents to go to the fair, the center has held its own mini-fair in recent years, Activity Director Sharon Pearson said. The mini-fair includes homegrown produce on exhibit, Ellsworth Funsters clowns, children's games such as breaking balloons and more. It's usually scheduled for the same week as the fair.

Otherwise, residents have been accompanied to the county fair each year of the 20-plus years she's been employed at the center, Pearson said. And they're still going, if able.

--Friday, Aug. 13, will be Senior Citizens Day at this year's fair. Those age 62 and better will pay a discounted $2 admission that day. One of the special features will be the Most Admired Senior Citizen program at 10:30 a.m. in the shelter, when the three winners will be announced. The public has been invited to nominate friends or relatives who are county residents over 60-years-old for this honor.

--Thursday, Aug. 12, will be Salute to Veterans Day at the fair. All veterans will receive free admission that day. A related attraction will be the Veterans Opening Ceremony in the shelter at 10:30 a.m.

Bill Kirk

Bill Kirk was editor of the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth, from 1988 to February, 2015 and is now on staff as a reporter. He holds a bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He previously worked in the media distribution department at the University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus and is past editor of The Tri-County News in Osseo, Wisconsin.

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