Friday, September 24, 2010

Northfield Retirement Community

Pictures removed 11-25-12

In January of 2010, Sue Otterness from the Northfield Retirement Community contacted me to request a storytelling event.
We decided to perform A County Road Picnic, which is one of my old books that I will be re-writing and re-illustrating to publish with Beaver's Pond Press in 2011.

The retirement community is an impressive campus with a theater, gift shop, and chapel, among other amenities.

Chaplin Diane allowed us to perform in the chapel, which is why you see me without my cap on in the pictures from the show.

The audience was particularly alert to the humor in the show from the beginning.

They especially enjoyed the part in the story where the Watkins' man drives into the farmyard to tell the family that their cows are in the neighbor's corn field.

In this photo you can see a piece of the table on which Nancy has set up the books for browsing and for sale.

This was a particularly lively group and after the show many stayed to talk, ask questions, and share their stories.

Since I have a lot of relatives from the Northfield area, it's not surprising that several of the audience members wanted to know which Fredrickson was my Grandfather.

Delores Roberts enthusiastically introduced herself to us because she is a really good friend of my cousin, Janet Olinger.
Delores told me the story of how she volunteered to be a nurse immediately after the attack on Pearl harbor. We talked briefly that day, but I got her phone number and asked to call her. I wanted to hear her story in more detail.
About a month later I called and she generously shared her stories of the war with me.
Meeting and talking with people like Delores is a fascinating benefit of visiting Retirement Communities.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Are you one of these people who has to be doing something all the time?

I am.
Recently, I heard that being one of those kind of people isn't very healthy.
The argument goes something like this;

We need to take a short time each day "to be."
We are human "beings."
We are not human "doings."

I admit that I find the argument compelling and I readily agree.
However, now that they have convinced me, what do I do about it?
Can I really "undo" the kind of person I am? After all, it has taken me over six decades to deveolp as a "doer."
We may not be human "doings"  but we are not human "undoings" either.

I have tried.

But whenever I try to just sit and meditate or contemplate or re-juvinate, I find myself thinking, "As soon as I'm done with this,  I will Email ___ about ___."
Then I find myself making a mental list of things I need to do as soon as I am done spending time just "being."
Then I think of something really important and that's the end of the moment of reflection as I blurt out,  
"I gotta write this down!!"

The longer I'm around, the more I agree with the old saying, "It takes all kinds," or "We're not wired the same."

How's your meditating going?


Monday, September 20, 2010

Old People

First, I need to say that I consider myself to be an old person.

I think we need to quit avoiding calling people "old." Sure, it's OK to call old people seniors, but when I do shows for kids in the 12th grade, what do I call them?

We need to let the word "old" become a badge of achievement that it deserves to be. When you are old, you have a history to your life, but you still have a future too.

When you are really young, you have no history at all. Middle-aged people have a short history, but they usually deceive themselves into thinking that their history is still the present decade. I know I did.

I think we need to embrace our history and our age. We need to be able to say, "I'm old," with pride.

I do lots of shows for old people in retirement homes, nursing homes, and assisted living apartments; and they are the best audiences specifically because they are old and because they are proud of it.

As I speak of 1950 and show pictures of elm trees that lined the country side  and peddlers that traveled the narrow country roads, they nod their heads and grin. Sometimes, during my 45 minute program, I see an old man in the front row with his eyes closed, but I know he is listening because he is  grinning. I wonder what memories my stories are bringing back to him. If I am lucky, he will tell me after the show.

I see an old lady in a wheel chair who cannot hold her head upright, but she stares at me with her sidelong glance, giving me a wide, toothy smile. Her face is thin and fragile, but her genuine smile makes me feel like a really lucky guy.  

These people are old and I love them for it. When they talk to me after the show, they proudly state their ages:
"I'm 92 and grew up on a farm in ____."
"I'm 88 and I knew your relatives."
"I grew up on a small farm in Iowa and I was born in 1922."
"Our farm was about as far north as you can get and still be in Minnesota."
"We lived in North Dakota when I was real little."

You cannot hear these stories from the young.

These people are not ashamed of being old and they shouldn't be.
The question is, "Why are we so afraid of using the word, 'old'?"

If you know somebody who is old, encourage them to tell their stories.
I always say, "A story not told is lost forever."
And, yes, that 50-year-old parent or grandparent you know who thinks he or she isn't old is old enough to have an interesting history. Help them discover it by listening to their stories.

I'll say it again. A Story not told is lost forever.

Friday, September 17, 2010


A program on the radio a few months ago explained that my own brain may deceive me.
I was astonished.
Now I can't even trust my own brain.
I listened a little longer to discover that it's a survival thing. That's right. To help me with surviving, my brain will deceive me.

For instance, my brain may deceive me into remembering things in a way that makes me feel better.

OK, that explains why I sometimes remember that I won an argument with my wife, but what other pieces of my memory are "wrong." How else is my clever brain deceiving me for my own good?

Did my brain deceive me into thinking I could dance? Well, I had a lot of fun dancing, so I suppose that was OK.

Did my brain deceive me into thinking that a doughnut is really a healthy breakfast, especially if it's filled with custard?
 How can this deception be for my own good?  Maybe, the purpose of my brain deceiving me is just to make me feel good.

I know one time when I was about 19 and I wanted to learn how to swim, a friend of mine in the Army told me to hang on to the side of swimming pool and practice kicking to propel myself upward.
He said that after I have success using my feet to propel myself in the water, I should just go to the bottom of the pool and try to propel myself to the top with my hands and feet.
This sounded pretty easy to me so I tried it the next day at the big pool on the Army base.

It didn't take long and my brain was deceiving me into thinking that I was an ace at propelling myself in the water. That was a good feeling. I decided I was ready to try it from the bottom of the pool.

It didn't go well at all.

After a big MP friend of mine, who happened to be swimming there that afternoon, pulled me out, I asked him why he waited so long. "Couldn't you see I was drowning down there?"I sputtered.

"Actually," he said, "you really looked like you knew what you were doing. The way you were propelling yourself but not going anywhere--I thought it was a gag."

Apparently, my attempts at survival at the bottom of the pool had created a lasting, humorous image for him because he was still chuckling as I was spitting up water.

Somehow, I don't see how that bit of deception by my brain helped my survival. The short bit of "feeling good" about being able to propel myself could have put an end to me.

I must have this all wrong. Surely, my brain wouldn't try to kill me, but I'm thinking that I'll start being a little more skeptical about what my brain is telling me.

I can think of times I did things when I should've known better.
For example, did my brain deceive me into thinking it was OK to pick apples from the neighbor's tree when I was 10 years old because it was so far out in his pasture and the apples would just be wasted if someone didn't pick them?

Oh, oh, now this is starting to sound like the old excuse, "The Devil made me do it"?

And that, I can understand.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Does anyone out there remember the rock band, Huey Lewis and the News?

I don't know exactly how long ago this story happened, but it was in an era where people on the radio actually introduced the next song instead of pretending everyone was in some kind of club where the members all knew the names of all the performers. (Does that bother anyone else but me?)

Anyway, back to Huey Lewis and the News.
I've always liked music of all kinds, but I never much cared for the interruptions to the music on the radio: commercials, talking (except for introducing the next number) and the news. I especially hated the short one-liner news items on the top 40 type radio stations. I wanted music, music, music. I wanted to rock and roll.
If something came on my car radio that interrupted the music, my fingers reached for the push button switch faster than a speeding bullet. A commercial comes on, SWITCH. Talk about traffic or the weather, SWITCH.
I hear the disc jockey say, "...and here's Huey Lewis and the News,"SWITCH.

This went on for months or at least during the first 50 % of Mr. Lewis's career.

My misconception came to an abrupt end one day when my wife was in the car and the disc jockey began, "...and here's Huey Lewis and the..."SWITCH.

Nancy looked at me and calmly said, "I thought you liked his songs. I've seen you listening to his songs."

"It's news," I said, and after I switched back to the station to prove my point, I found myself listening to music that I remembered enjoying before.  But apparently, it had never been introduced.

OK. Anyone out there have the courage to fess up to some funny misconceptions?
Use the comment space below.
Or just tell your friends if you don't want to go public with it.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

St. Clair Literacy Night

Picture removed 11-25-12

On  January 28, 2010, Nancy and I drove to St. Clair Public School to do a 6:30 PM performance at Literacy Night.
Shauna Hannaman, an astute member of the St. Clair Student-Teacher-Parent-Connection, had met me when I was signing books at the Mankato Barnes & Nobles last fall and had purchased a copy of If I Were A Farmer, Nancy's Adventure.

Early in January, I received an Email from her requesting that I read the book at Literacy Night.

I was thrilled at the idea of having an audience of adults and kids, but since she requested that I perform a book that was for the very young, I knew I would need to include something for the adults as well.
As you can see in the photo above, the show started with a good-sized audience of young students in a corner of the library.

The structure of the evening, however, allowed people to walk around and spend time wherever they desired. In an attempt to draw adults into my show, I included a segment where I explained the realistic elements in my book.

Soon more adults stopped to listen.

And I was delighted that they decided to stay for the program.

So that by the time the show was over, we had a good crowd.

And many of them sopped to tell their stories after the show and buy some books.

We had a good time at St. Clair, another fine Minnesota school, tended by good teachers, attended by great kids, and supported by interested parents.

Nancy and I hope to go back soon.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Countryside 1950

The shows I've been doing for kids and adults for 10 years focus on activities and events with a small family farm in 1950. Since people in my audiences range in ages  from 1 to 100, the images they have of what the countryside was like in 1950 vary greatly.

Older folks have specific memories, but since elementary school kids and teens do not, I use some pictures at the beginning of my show to try to characterize the countryside during the 1940's and 1950's.
I cover just 6 categories:

1. HORSES--In 1950, most small farms in this area had at least one team of horses for several reasons:
 a) For one reason or another, they may not have owned a dependable tractor, and even if they were able to afford a good tractor, much of their equipment was set up for horses. To buy all new equipment or convert what you had to be pulled by a tractor took time and money.

b) The roads were so poor that they would easily drift shut in the winter and remain closed for days or weeks. To get to town farmers used a team of horses to pull a sleigh over the snow-covered high ground, not the roads. Also, the milk truck couldn't get to the farms to pick up the milk and the farmer had to use the horses and sleigh to get the milk to a main highway where the hauler could pick it up.
In the spring the roads were even worse and remained too muddy to use for weeks.

c) For some farmers, the horses had become like old friends and they were reluctant to part with them. The picture above is from 1954 when my parents decided to sell Bill and Daisy.  Dad and I posed for a picture before we loaded them on the truck. There were no pictures taken of events like my first day of school or any number of other occasions, but parting with Bill and Daisy warranted a photo.


a) Although some farm houses were quite nice, especially on larger farms where the land had been passed on to the next generation, farm houses on really small farms that had been left to deteriorate through the hard times of the 1920's and 1930's were not in good shape, and these were the only farms new farmers could afford to buy. 
The above picture is the house on my parents' farm when they moved into it in 1940. They fixed it up some in the 1940's but were not able to remodel until 1952. Indoor plumbing came in 1958, though the barn had running water in the mid-1940's.

b) Another thing about housing in the country is that there were no housing developments. The only buildings in the country were buildings connected with a farm. No one would think of living in the country unless they farmed.


a) Small farms did not usually have a lot of sheds for machinery or tools.
Granaries, hay barns and chicken coops often doubled as tool sheds. Many farms had no garage or shed for a tractor or car.

The above picture is my parents' farm about 1957. Note the house has been remodeled. When my folks moved onto the place in 1940, there was no barn, no silo, no milk house, no chicken coop, no granary and no well.
b) In 1950 there were no pole sheds, or at least very, very few. Note the milk truck box on the cow yard ground on the right side of the photo. I think Dad bought it for about $25 to house young stock.  The pole building boom started a few years later.

c) Sheds made from railroad cars were fairly popular because the well built cars were heavy and great for storing grain.  The picture of the one below was taken recently, but you can imagine when the roof was first erected over the two cars, the structure looked pretty nice.


Country stores like this one in St. Patrick dotted the countryside near lakes or crossroads. Note the feed mill nearby where farmers could bring their corn and oats to be ground and mixed.

Peddlers were often seen in the countryside.
The peddler's name in the picture below is Jaffe and he traveled the area in the 1930's, 1940's and 1950's.
Note the wagon had steel front wheels and rear rubber tires. I don't know much about what he had in the wagon, but I know he carried socks and other clothes and some kitchen utensils, but no electrical utensils because most weren't invented yet or just not used in a 1950 farm kitchen.  He also sharpened tools and scissors, etc. and would trade his stuff for eggs or chickens if the farmer had no cash.

When I show this picture to audiences at senior centers, many remember Jaffe.

Farmers did chores by hand. Few farmers had anything automatic. Most dairy farmers in this area milked by hand, too.

I'll just name a few more of the many other difference between 1950 and the present.
There were no shopping centers or chain stores, but small towns had general stores that carried groceries and clothing. Small towns had movie theaters, shoe stores, car dealers, tractor dealers, and ice cream shops.
There were no fast food "restaurants", but small towns had soda fountains, cafes, family-owned restaurants, and taverns that sold hamburgers.

Anything else you can thin of?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Trinity Care Center

Pictures removed 11-25-12

To know me is to know I love an audience, and as Nancy and I drive the short distance to Farmington to perform at Trinity Care Center, I speculate on the audience and the attendance.
"It's a big place and when we delivered the posters a couple weeks ago, it looked like a really nice place too."

"They'll probably have a big area so people in wheel chairs can park easily, " Nancy adds.

Susan, the activities director, said most of the audience members will be in the 80's and some in the 90's. I told her I would bring my small sound system so I could adjust volume as necessary. When we've done that at other senior care centers, they've really appreciated being able to hear the show clearly."

"And some of the seniors have stopped by after shows to tell us that they appreciate the sound system," Nancy says.

Nancy and I set up in the inside garden area where the units are constructed to look like cabins that open onto a spacious garden with a waterfall and plants.

As people come in I have a chance to talk to them and find out where they are from, and they thank us for coming (even before they've seen the show) and talk about their experiences growing up on a farm.

As I turn the page to begin the show, the audience numbers about 25.

The enthusiasm they've expressed before the show helps inspire me to do my best and throw in a few stories that make the program run 45 minutes long.

Their expressions are often limited by
oxygen tubes or by how much they can move in the wheel chair, but as I see them smile and nod their heads, I know they are enjoying the show.

I know the "golden years" may not appear to be so great sometimes, but we must never forget that the people living those years are golden, for they are precious to us.  

After I end the show they applaud warmly several times and stay around to tell me their stories.

Several people buy books and talk to Nancy and me as I sign them.

My job as a performer is to make people laugh, smile, cry, and, in general, respond with feeling, and whenever I feel an audience responding, I become more emotionally involved in my stories. Audience and performer build on the responses of each other.
At this performance of A Farm Country Christmas Eve, a story which holds many dear memories for me, the audience gave back every thing I gave them and more.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Renaissance Festival

This year is the 40th Anniversary of the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. It's popularity never seems to wane, and why should it? Nowhere else will you find an array of truly high quality, unique arts and crafts nestled among so much absolutely irresistible foolish fun. I will not begin to list the variety of acts, food, or characters, although I tried once in one of my NBP (never been published) novels.

As always, Nancy and I arrive at the site near Shakopee before the gates open to catch a bit of the pre-show.

Nancy does a little shopping before we go in the main gate.

We meet friends and relatives who even admit to knowing us. L to R are Tyler, Alyssa, Twyla, and my nephew Bob.

Once inside the gates, we stop at a few shops on our way to catch the 10:30 show of our favorite act, Puke and Snot.


Then we buy a couple glasses of wine from our favorite wine vendor, Amanda, who wears a pair of horns on her head. Pretty cute, eh?

As usual, there is a big crowd at the Puke and Snot Show, but we walk to the front because usually some kind people will make room for  couple of old-timers.
We get a front row seat and a lady comes out to place the props and introduce the act.

 We have been coming to see Puke and Snot's show for nearly 40 years, and so have lots of other people. Between sword play and word play, their comic narrative includes exchanging colorful insults with each other and talking with audience members. Although it's billed as a family show, Sir Puke always comments that the parents will be fielding a lot of questions from the kids on the way home.

Nancy and I do not pretend to be personal friends with these guys, but after seeing their comedy for as many years as we have been married, they seem like old friends to us. We first saw the act in the early 1970's when the Renaissance Festival was located in Jonathan.

Sir Puke is Mark Sieve (white shirt) and Sir Snot is John Gamoke. Both men are accomplished stage actors.

This is John's third year in the act, taking over for Joe Kudla, Mark's partner in the act who died suddenly in August, 2008.
John had the courage to step in after only a few days of rehearsal,
and Mark had the determination to help make it work.

After the show, Nancy and I explain to Mark how much we enjoyed his book, Call Me Puke, A Life on the Dirt Circuit, a humorous, fast-paced memoir in which Mark tells the story of his rise in the entertainment world. Visit for more information.

They were kind to take a moment to let us set up a photo.

Later, we stop to see an act called Tuey-Juggling and Ropewalking as he did his finale with fire.

We watch Diane, the lemonade lady, throw out her lemon on a string and reel in the kids.

She has this one hooked.

I get a wild idea I can hit someone with a tomato. My attempts cause a good deal of mirth among viewers.

This lad tries a couple times, but fails to make it to the top on the Jacob's Ladder. I know better than to try.
We visit more shops, eat steak on a stick (really good and only $5.75),
meet more people, and Nancy buys a hat.

Everybody is here to have fun and it's easy to begin conversing with complete strangers. We talked to Rita and Joe Iversen from Sioux City, Iowa, after they had their photos taken as heads on life-sized pickles.

But it's time for us to go, and we say goodbye to the Festival until next year.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Minnesota State Fair, 2010, II

The truth of Thomas Jefferson's statement as shown on a large poster at the Farm Bureau Building at the Minnesota State Fair was probably obvious to everyone 100 years ago when the majority of the country's population was directly involved in agriculture.

"Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness."

Now, many like to think they are are "beyond" being involved in agriculture, but what these consumers forget is that because they must eat, they are very much involved in the results agriculture.
Consequently, for the sake of the health of their children and themselves, people need to stay involved with the source of their food as well as the end products.

This is why we attended the Minnesota Cooks Event at 1:00 PM on Tuesday afternoon at the Minnesota State Fair just south of the Grandstand.

Minnesota Cooks Event is organized by the Food Alliance Midwest, and during the event they had local chefs creating dishes as they they discussed their relationships with local farmers who provide produce for the restaurants. In both sessions we watched as the farmers described their efforts to learn about growing healthy food and as chefs described how buying local makes their dishes better.

Panel members, who get to taste and describe the chefs' creations, and the chefs are as follows:

 Lin and Doug Hilgendorf, who grow and mill whole grains locally and work to discover better ways to make a healthy product.
 Doug explained that they were learning to grow and de-hull buckwheat in an effort to provide the non-gluten grain to restaurants. Buckwheat is not actually a wheat and if it could be  de-hulled and purchased locally, it could provide restaurants and consumers a healthy non-gluten product. This is the kind of thing yours truly likes to hear since I recently discovered I am gluten intolerant.

Leslie (center) and Brian (right) Axdahl, who own and operate Axdahl farms near Stillwater.
Brian talked about how his farms were conveniently located close to the metropolitan area, but yet the area was rural enough to provide space for farming.

Chef Dan Patterson of Rabbit's Bakery, Lake City, explained that the relationships he has built up with these local farms and farmers has gone beyond just being good business. Friendships have grown and created an environment where he can provide the healthiest ingredients possible for his bakery.
Dan and Hallie Patterson buy all of their flour from the Whole Grain Milling Company, Welcome, MN, which is owned by Doug and Lin Hilgendorf.

Chef Shawn Smalley of Smalley's Caribbean Barbeque, Stillwater, MN, buys many of his vegetables locally, but he readily admits that his recipes call for Caribbean ingredients that are not available locally. However, Shawn also praised local farms and his relationship with the Axdahl Farms where he gets his vegetables.

Two final members of the panel are Emily Zweber and Dan Shelby.

Emily and Tim Zweber operate a farm north of Elko New Market that has been in the Zweber family for 4 generations. They are members of Organic Valley Coop, which is a network of farms that focus on organic farming.  We are happy to claim her as a neighbor (about 4 miles away) and a new friend, whom we met first through her blog and Facebook and then in-person when she visited us at the Dakota County Fair a few weeks ago. She is an avid and eloquent spokes person for farmers and good farm practices.

It's easy to just say that everybody knows who Don Shelby is, but besides his obvious fame as a newscaster you can trust, he is deep into growing things to eat. He explained that he has a half acre "under crop," and that he cans enough food to provide his family with over two meals per week all year around. He also has six beehives he tends and proclaims that watching his bees work is a very relaxing past time.
His unique, mellow tones make his voice a pleasure to hear, but his voice also has a pleasant sharpness to it that keeps the listener alert and adds to his authority. At several different times during the program, Don discussed the reasons to buy local food to use at home and support the restaurants who buy local.  It's a good choice morally and for your health. Don is another very eloquent spokesperson for good farm practices and local farmers.

After the chefs finished their dishes, the food was sampled by the panel and then passed out to the audience members. Everyone agreed the food met the expectations of being special and especially delicious.
So there you have it. The State Fair is about food, but I hope that I've given it a bit of a different slant than you would've expected.

However, let me show you a few more picks from the second panel.

At this point, Nancy and I  discover time has slipped by pretty fast and we have to leave soon or risk getting caught in traffic, but we decide to stay to hear a couple of local celebrities be introduced.

 St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and Senator Al Franken, both supporters of buying local Minnesota products, greet the audience.

Introductions were short, but as we wait for food to cook, the moderator asks questions of the panel. During an exchange with Senator Franken, the sound system failed for the second time that day, but it took only a moment for the Senator to come up with a fix.

Audience members laughed and applauded as the senator quickly cut the bottom out of his cup and used it as a megaphone.

Soon, the mayor altered a few more cups and the new device was used by all.

Sorry, but since we had to leave, we can't tell you when the sound problem was resolved, but when we left, the show was moving forward as planned, despite the small set back.

As we head back to the car, I remark about how much I've enjoyed our State Fair visit, but a quick sidelong glance from Nancy reminds me to add, "... but not as much as the first time we were here together."
You see, in August of 1969, Nancy and I attended the State Fair together on our first date. We got there early and stayed for the evening Grandstand show, where we enjoyed seeing Johnny Cash.

 On our way past the Grandstand, I snap a picture of Nancy pointing to a picture of Johnny Cash on the side of the Grandstand.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Minnesota State Fair, 2010

Sure, I agree the State Fair is all about food, but not the way you might think. More on that later.

For me, any fair (state or county) is about people and their achievements with animals, crafts, and arts of all kinds. Please let me show you.

On our visit to the Minnesota State Fair on Tuesday, Nancy and I follow the same plan we have for years:
We arrive at the fair before seven to check out the animals before the barns get crowded and before the heat starts to work on the odors.  First, we stop to snap a photo of Nancy near the Grandstand.

We arrive at the cow barns before all of the cattle need to get up,

but many hard-working kids and adults are beginning to tend their animals by washing or currying them or by cleaning their stalls.

If you ever catch yourself being cynical about a generation a few notches before yours, a trip to the fair will quickly set you straight. Kids of all sizes work alone or with adults to accomplish every task necessary.

In the swine building, we enjoy watching the kids and adults parade their hogs in front of the judges. Aren't these kids great!

This young woman wins first place with her entry.

We continue on to see poultry, sheep, horses, and fish at the DNR pool, before we take a break in the shade north of the Poultry Building and listen to music by a group from Ecuador as we eat our lunch. We laugh as we witness each fair goer who passes by fall into a little dance. Some do it immediately and others resist till almost out of range, but nearly everyone feels the need to move a bit to the irresistible beat. The shade, the music, and the people-watching keep us there for half an hour.

This little girl dances almost the entire time we are there, taking a break only once in a while to be hugged by her mom.

Now the buildings are getting crowded. We walk through the Miracle of Birth Center, which is packed with kids and adults viewing baby animals of all types,
 East of the Miracle of Birth Center is the FFA Chapter House and Leadership Center, and we stop to visit. I've always been a big fan of Future Farmers of America because I know their programs do so much to develop youth confidence.

Jeff Knobloch introduces himself to me. Jeff is from Morris, MN, and is Region III President. As he tells me of his plans to attend the U of M this fall, he grins with enthusiasm.

Since he asks what brings me to the fair, I confess that I am looking for an outlet for my books. He is a real gentleman so he pages through several of them, but I am pleased that he does seem honestly interested. I give him some literature on my books and let him get back to greeting others after wishing him the best of luck at school.

While Jeff and I chat, Nancy meets Erin Daninger and snaps her picture as she talks to the Kruize family from Fargo, ND. Erin is from Forest Lake and is State Secretary of the FFA.

After talking to these two young achievers, Nancy and I agree that the young people in next generation are pretty good hands to be in.

But my pitch for today's youth doesn't stop here. Next we visit the 4-H Building where kids achieve in areas way too numerous and diverse to mention. Students display projects in science, technology, arts and crafts of all kinds, and you will never find a place where you will be greeted by so many genuine smiles from young people and adults.

I like the 4-H pledge, truly a pledge that can help make a better world.

The two girls at the door greet us with big smiles and say "Hello" as we approach.

Here are a few photos of some of the projects:

Making furniture

Making quilts (Nancy is partial to this category)


Science and technology


We sit down and rest while we watch little kids learning to jump rope.

We stop to enjoy a performance of "This is Our Time,"a show performed by 4-H actors, singers, dancers and musicians. Costumes, set and technical work are all provided by members of 4-H.
Not only did they do a great job of it all, but can you see those smiles?!

We had met some people from the Farm Bureau at Farmfest , which was August 3-5, so we decide to stop at the Farm Bureau building to talk with members.
Sarah Durenberger and Mike Rouillard welcome us with a fun handout that instructs us where to stop at each of 4 stations and discover answers to questions about farming. On the back of the quiz is a recipe for pizza, and we are referred to displays in front of the building where plants that produce pizza ingredients are growing.

After we finish, Mike and Sarah are kind enough to take time to look at my books. While Mike gives me information explaining whom to contact, Sarah reads through a couple books.

Apparently Sarah is not only smart, but she has great taste. She buys two books and has me sign them before we leave.

We have just enough time to go to the car to get more books before the the Minnesota Cooks Event which begins at 1:00 PM.

Now, I don't mind sounding like the former teacher that I am, so I'll ask, "Do you remember at the start of this blog I said that the Minnesota Stare Fair is all about food but not the way you might think?"

Well, every place I highlighted on this blog teaches about food:
The kids and adults working in the barns can explain what it takes to care for animals, or just watch them and you will see the love they have for what they do.
The animals in the barns are themselves the very food we eat. We need to respect them and the people who care for them.
4-H members are constantly involved with projects that deal with food.
The FFA leaders help lead our future in food production.
The Farm Bureau has programs that show kids and adults facts about food.
No pictures are attached of the Ag Building, but it is full of wall to wall displays of fruits and vegetables and honey and wine. The booths are handled by knowledgeable people in every area.

Notice I didn't mention anything about all the "fair food"everyone raves about, but I figure that corn dogs and foot-longs get enough free publicity from the media.

The things I mention require no money other than your entry and parking fees, but experiencing them does require time and a healthy curiosity.

There are hundreds of great places to visit and learn about food at the fair that I have not mentioned. I urge you to find them all and visit them, and if you have the money, you can always enjoy a foot-long or a corn dog as you visit.

At 1:00 PM we plan to watch Minnesota Cooks Event, sponsored by  Food Alliance, Minnesota Farmers Union, Star Tribune and other organizations, and featuring local organic farmers and cooks from local restaurants that are committed to using local produce. Also, the event features celebrity tasters.

This will be the subject of Friday's blog, which will contain more about food at the fair, but maybe not quite what you may expect?