‘Like being at grandma’s’: Polk County Fair brings small-town appeal

FERTILE, Minn. -- Many area families have made it a tradition to attend the Polk County Fair, and it's unlikely this year will be any different. Thousands of fairgoers have flocked to Fertile, Minn., a town of 842 residents, to chow down on mini ...

Thousands of fair goers have flocked to Fertile, Minn., to chow down on mini donuts and ride the ferris wheel for more than 110 years. (Photo courtesy of Nancy Grunhovd)

FERTILE, Minn. - Many area families have made it a tradition to attend the Polk County Fair, and it’s unlikely this year will be any different. Thousands of fairgoers have flocked to Fertile, Minn., a town of 842 residents, to chow down on mini doughnuts and ride the ferris wheel for more than 110 years.
From July 6 to 10, the fair offers activities for all ages. The Grandstand features a rodeo, Baja racing, Bingo, kids’ pedal pull, worship service and demolition derby. As always, there will be plenty of food to enjoy.
The fair usually features one or two new food stands each year, but the majority of food patrons have grown to love will be around again this year, says Danny Grunhovd, president of the Polk County Fair board of directors
“We’ll have the old standbys like the Oof-da Taco stand, which has been at the fair for close to 25 years, and of course Mini Donuts, too,” he says. “They’re both local stands that have been there for a long time.”
For those who need to work off that extra corn dog, a jog may be just the fix.
5K walk or run
The 7th annual Polk County Fair 5K walk or run will be held July 9 at 9 a.m. The race begins and ends at the fairgrounds. The route will cover both paved and gravel roads. Pre-registration for the event costs $15 for adults and $10 for children (12 years old and younger). Pre-registration is open until July 3, after that date the cost to register is $20 for adults and $12 for children. There will be a drawing for door prizes for all participants.
Grunhovd was influential in starting a run at the Polk County Fair. Using his experience on the Minnesota State Fair board, he helped get the 5K in Fertile off the ground.

“I approached some of the people of Fertile and Riverview Health in Crookston about a race here, and they picked up the idea and ran with it,” he says. “It’s been very successful. It’s a nice way to start out Saturday at the fair.”

New attractions
New this year is the Ag Cab Lab. The traveling exhibit lets kids get in a combine or tractor cab to play simulated agriculture-based games. The exhibit is meant to give kids a fun way to experience ag, Grunhovd says.
“Besides the cab, there will be a lot of kiosks on ag information and educational products,” he says.
Another new item that will be featured is the Wall of Shame. It will be presented by game wardens from across the state and the Minnesota DNR, Grunhovd says.
“It’s a 30-foot trailer with mounts of animals that’ve been poached in Minnesota,” he says. “They’ll have where the animal was poached and what the consequences were. So, that’ll be interesting.”
Even though there will be a few new attractions, the events fairgoers have grown to love will return.
The lineup at the Grandstand will be pretty much the same as past years, with a rodeo the first two nights, a Baja race Friday and Saturday night and a demolition derby Sunday night, Grunhovd says.
“We started the Baja about seven years ago,” he says. “We run a 4-, 6- and 8-cylinder class, and a pickup class, as well. It’s been very successful. Last year, we had about 100 cars participate.”
The demolition derby has become a mainstay at the Polk County Fair through the years. It’s the last event held at the Grandstand. It takes place Sunday evening and is followed by fireworks to complete the weekend. The event has been waning over the past couple years from junk cars becoming scarce, but they’ve been able to maintain a good turnout, Grunhovd says.
“We run about 30 to 35 cars,” he says. “So, we can put on a pretty decent show. It’s become kind of a tradition at the fair.”
Traditions come with the territory at a fair that’s over 100 years old, and livestock and food contests are no exception.
Judging, contests
There are plenty of exhibits for livestock entrants, such as cattle, swine, sheep, goats, rabbits and poultry. Entries submitted by June 29 will be entered in an early bird drawing for a $50 savings bond. Entries came be submitted to the Polk County Fair or emailed to .
Judging isn’t exclusive to livestock. Culinary enthusiasts can enter the Polk County Fair Chocolate Contest. The two classes of competition are the adult chocolate dessert contest and the youth cookie, cake and bar contest. Entrants in the youth category must be between ages 8 and 18. Judging is based on flavor, overall appearance, moistness and texture, consistency and creativity. Prizes for the top three finishers range from $15 to $50. Entries are due by 6:30 p.m. July 6, and judging begins at 7 p.m. on the free stage.
Kids can get involved with contests, as well, at the Kiddie Calf, Lamb and Goat Show. The competition is open to kids in Kindergarten and younger. Calves must be no older than 6 months of age. It is recommended entrants pre-register by June 15. The show is July 9 at 11 a.m. West Side Dairy will provide ice cream treats at the event.
Other events
Sunday afternoon will feature a community parade at 2 p.m. There will be cash prizes ranging from $50 to $100 for the best floats. Candy will be handed out by volunteers.
Those looking for a thrill, the Midway will be open every day. Opening times are 5 p.m. on Wednesday, 4 p.m. on Thursday, 1 p.m. on Friday, and noon on Saturday and Sunday. Ride tickets can be purchased in advance until 5 p.m. July 6. The two options are an unlimited ride armband for one day that costs $20 or a mega ride armband for all five days that costs $50. Either armband option can be purchased at stores in the Fertile area. Individual ride tickets or daily armbands can be purchased at the Midway, but will have a higher price.
4-H will also be on hand with events from dog, cat and rabbit shows to a scavenger hunt. The group is very involved in the Polk County Fair and provides a big helping hand at the event, Grunhovd says.
“They’re a vital part of the fair,” he says. “They help us set up the buildings, so we have all the facilities cleaned up and everything in the right spot. They have a lot of good volunteers.”
The petting zoo, one of the fair’s more popular attractions, will be back, despite trouble with petting zoos across Minnesota, Grunhovd says.
“There’s been problems with petting zoos, but we run a real clean zoo, so it’ll be back this year. It’s been at our fair so long that it’s become a generation thing.”
Grunhovd says people keep coming back every year because of the low-key environment, and they’ve been coming for generations.
“We’ve got families all the way from Mayville and Northwood that have been coming here for years,” he says. “And it’s the small town feel. You can come and your kids can run around. It’s like being at Grandma’s.”

Related Topics: 4-H
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