MORGAN, Minnesota — The streets of the historic Gilfillan Estate were bustling with people on Tuesday morning for the opening of the largest outdoor farm show in Minnesota.
Minnesota Farmfest 2021, held near Redwood Falls at the junction of Minnesota Highway 67 and Redwood County Highway 13, got underway at 8 a.m. on Aug. 3.
Last year's event was held virtually due to the pandemic. This year's show began Tuesday and runs through Thursday, Aug. 5 with the gates open each day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
"It took a while to get back into the swing of what it means to plan a big show like this," said Niki Jones, marketing manager for IDEAg Group, which owns and produces the show. "And then once we were in it, and got here, there was so much energy and it was really great."
Jones said the walkways to reach the more than 400 exhibitors and ag presentations were filled with attendees on Tuesday, which is typically the lowest attendance day of the three-day show. She said the group is hoping to be on par with 2019 for attendance, which would be between 25,000-30,000 people.
Enthusiasm to be back in person at an event like Farmfest was felt throughout the grounds on the opening day of the show.
"With being off a year, the technology changes, the models change and the products are getting better," Jones said of the exhibitor stands. "They're different from year to year, but especially over two years, so I think it's important for farmers to get face to face with these folks that know about these products."
Jones said that in-person experience of getting into a cab and trying out machinery can't be replicated virtually.
Tradition is also a big part of the annual farm show, said Jones, who knows at least one family who has their family portrait done at the event every year.
"It is a family affair," she said.
That's the case for 93-year-old Howard Paschke, who was in the crowd with his grandson, Josh Manske on Tuesday during the U.S. Ag Policy panel discussion. Paschke has attended every Farmfest since 1972, when the first ever show (then called Farmfest USA) was held in Vernon Center, Minnesota.
"I come every year so I can learn new things," Paschke said. "I have to keep up with the times, too."
According to the Blue Earth County Historical Society, the cost of admission in 1972 was $2 and the week's entertainment led up to an appearance from comedian Bob Hope.
"Everything is different today from when I first started going to Farmfest, and it's gotten to be quite a big thing," he said.
Paschke, who rents out 400 acres of farmland in Faribault County, said he started farming when he was a teenager. Agriculture has always been a part of his life, he said.
"I've farmed for so long that I farmed with horses," Paschke said. "I was able to make one round on the corn planter with my dad's team of horses but needed help after that."
After Manske introduced his grandfather before asking a question during the panel, both National Farmers Union President Rob Larew and American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall stopped by afterwards to pay their respects to Paschke.
"That was really special, and I really appreciate them taking the time to come over," said Manske.