NEW ULM – Thursday was Seniors Day at the Brown County Fair, and the day began with a program celebrating outstanding seniors in the community.
This year’s Outstanding Senior Citizen of the Year volunteer was Marv Sluiter, who has been a great asset to the fair for years. He was invited to serve on Fair’s board of directors in 1999. He remained there for 19 years and continues to help in times of need.
Sluiter said he started out as a back-up, stepping in whenever the board was short-staffed. Later, he took on the responsibility of recruiting volunteers to help out at the fair. Sluiter said that to organize the fair, around 100 volunteers are needed.
“I think people just like being personally asked to help,” said Sluiter. This is how he was able to recruit volunteers year after year. Later, he would contact civic organizations to volunteer as a team or go from company to company to find sponsors.
For a while, he even serviced the ATM.
Sluiter is no longer on the board, but he still helps. For the past several years, he has tended the fairground flowerbeds and volunteered at grandstand events and other activities.
“It’s hard to stay away” Sluiter admitted. “I love the people and the time spent working at the fair.”
Sluiter said the Brown County Fair was special because it was a free fair. People could come in and see a lot for no upfront cost, whereas many fairs have an entry fee.
This year, the Fair Board has also chosen to honor former board members and volunteers who have passed away in the past year: Marlin Portner, Arlon Fritsche and Les Stadick.
Portner had a long history of helping out at the fair, even while undergoing chemotherapy treatments for cancer. It would be used for maintenance and would help the sellers. Portner was the person who filled the soft drinks at the beer stands and set up the toilets.
Portner initially joined the board to keep tractor traction alive. He and friends ran the tractor for several years and eventually ran it himself.
Outside of the fair, Portner was well known for restoring tractors. He has set a goal each year to restore at least one tractor and bring it to festivals in the area. Many restored tractors were displayed at the fair.
Fritsche served on the board for 30 years. At this time he was President of the Agricultural Society and Superintendent of Livestock for several years. A highlight of his time on the board was booking big names in music for the stands.
Stadick had an interest in electronics which led him to set up sound systems for the fair for over two decades. For the past two years, the fair has sponsored a Christmas drive-in. Stadick would help make snow for the Winter Wonderland as part owner of a snow machine. He also helped mow the lawn.
Stadick was involved with many clubs in the community. He has been a volunteer with Relay For Life since its inception in 1996. He has been an active member of the Flying Dutchmen Cycle Club and the River Valley Dutchmen Snowmobile Club for over 50 years.
The senior program also recognized two New Century Farms, Schultz Farm near Hanska and Krenz Farm north of Sleepy Eye.
Marlene (Schultz) Fischer said the farm was started by her father, Robert Schulz, and later ran by her and her husband, Larry Fischer. Marlene said her husband was originally from the Twin Cities, but his father managed to convert him into a farmer and he has remained in the family ever since.
Joyce and Lynn Krenz said the trick to achieving century-old farm status is to work hard and carry on the traditions. Lynn’s great-great-grandparents August and Augusta Utecht purchased the farm in 1890. In 1916 it passed to Ferdinand and Bertha Krenz. In 1956 he was transferred to Fred and Betty Krenz. Joyce and Lynn moved to the farm in 1985.
Lynn wished to thank the Minnesota Agricultural Society and the Minnesota Farm Bureau for the Century Farm award.