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The best place for finding ‘Minnesota Nice’ in the summer of ’12

The one place to find “Minnesota Nice” that tops all of the others is the rural county fair held annually in each of Minnesota’s 87 counties.

Teens showing livestock typically like talking about their animals. Lloyd Lesmeister and Brady Wulf competed at the 2011 Stevens County Fair.
MinnPost photo by Steve Date

With too many daily media reminders of uncivil behavior, this summer we’ve been especially interested in finding tangible examples of “Minnesota Nice” from people we meet.

As part of the fact-finding, my family attended more than one Memorial Day and July 4 celebration, enjoying the variety of people, colorful parades, well-intended and patriotic speeches and a flavorful smorgasbord of community picnics. Each town and neighborhood in Minnesota, it seems, also celebrates itself with one of hundreds community-boosting activities — often involving mini-carnivals, fast food, baseball games, street dances, late-night partying and other forms of neighborly fellowship.

People we’ve met this year were most helpful and genuinely cordial and decent.  

Topping all the others

The one place to find “Minnesota Nice” that tops all of the others is the rural county fair held annually in each of Minnesota’s 87 counties in the June-August time frame.

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We found that the best time to catch Minnesotans making nice is in the morning of the first day of the 3-4 day run of the fair. It is then that you will find judges judging animals, food and handiwork, offering up blue ribbons to the best in show. One posted a sign outside the 4-H building chasing us away while the judging teams were still evaluating the wares.

The early first-day attendees include lots of grandparents with their excited young charges and groups of delightful, wide-eyed day-care kids.

From water softeners to back rubs

Vendors we met were beginning to sell everything from financial and real-estate services to hand-made jewelry, water softeners and bathroom makeovers; they had more than enough time to listen patiently and to answer questions.

I registered for a couple of vehicles being raffled off, noting that by doing so I would be called even if I was on the “do not call list.” I almost got a free five-minute back rub, but the chiropractor wanted so much personal and health-related info that I demurred.

It is a joy to visit petting zoos of “exotic” animals indigenous to  foreign lands as well as barns full of young people showing off their livestock; man, do these farm kids love to talk about their well-groomed pigs, cows, horses, sheep, goats, chickens, ducks and pigeons, often spending their overnights in the barn with them.

Many folks you meet are talking about the forthcoming Grandstand shows that range from professional musicians to amateur talent shows and tractor pulls.

The all-you-can-drink milk and foot-long hot dogs with fried onions drew my culinary attention, while others loved the healthier and/or less traditional items like fruit-on-a-stick or a cup of French fries topped by deep friend cheese curds smothered in gravy.

Candidates less partisan

Many candidates seeking local and state offices are drawn to the county fairs, where pressing the flesh and chatting in a leisurely and less partisan way are welcomed.  We observed no rancor or political bad mouthing from anyone, regardless of political party, at the several fair venues we visited.

We expect more of all of this Minnesota Nice business at the State Fair, the granddaddy of all Minnesota celebrations, running from Aug. 23-Sept. 3 this year.

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Chuck Slocum is president of the Williston Group, a management consulting firm. He can be reached at


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