Ag Olympics keep everybody moving at Yellow Medicine County Fair

Photo by Jenny Kirk Ag Olympics were a splash — literally in some cases — during the 128th annual Yellow Medicine County Fair on Saturday in Canby. Paul Tol, left, tosses a pail of water as his obstacle course opponent, Justin Torke, laughs after slipping and falling on the ground.

CANBY — While the sweltering heat likely kept some people away, those who were in attendance at the 128th annual Yellow Medicine County Fair Saturday afternoon were enthusiastically involved in a variety of activities.

Despite the temperature nearing 100 degrees, a number of fair goers took part in the Ag Olympics, which featured a unique obstacle course.

“It was fun,” Wood Lake resident Justin Torke said. “I was expecting to win till I fell.”

After jumping a hay bale, running back to get a wheelbarrow and then maneuvering it around cones, Torke slipped next to the large bucket of water. Adding humor to the moment, Torke’s opponent, Paul Tol of Canby, pitched a bucket of water at him.

“Anybody can participate in the Ag Olympics,” Tol said. “But it’s a workout.”

Tol ended up winning the round. Brittany Thooft also won her heat, beating her dad, Emmitt Thooft, by about a half second.

Al Saltee then matched up against TJ Cooper.

“This is my husband Al’s creation,” Julie Saltee said. “We’ve been doing this for awhile now. It’s fun.” Al Saltee narrowly defeated his much-younger competitor. He finished third overall in the contest, with Joe Ferguson taking top honors, followed by Phil Tree.

“He did pretty good,” Julie Saltee said. “He beat a guy that was his daughter’s age. It helps that Al can shuck corn cobs really fast.”

Alyssa Fenske won the women’s division, followed by Brittany Thooft and Taylor Loose.

Marshall resident Mark Fokken serves as the announcer. “Every year, it’s fun,” he said. “It”s especially fun when you get local people involved.”

Canby’s Gabby Nemitz said being involved in 4-H has been a life-changing experience.

“I”ve been in it since I was 10 and it’s helped me grow a lot as a person,” Nemitz said. “It’s helped me choose what career I want to go into. I’m better at speaking. It’s taught me a lot.”

Nemitz, a member of the Osh Kosh 4-H club, added that she’s gained many friendships through her participation in the organization.

“Some of my best friends I met through 4-H and they’re not just in this county,” she said. “They’re in counties across the state.”

This year, Nemitz brought two breeding heifers, a cow/calf pair, and a prospect breeding heifer, a sheep, two goats and a hog to the county fair.

“I did really good with my cattle and my hogs,” Nemitz said. “My sheep and goats were average. I’m bringing my champion breeding heifer to the state fair. It’s exciting. I love state fair. It’s one of my favorite parts of summer.”

Nemitz said she plans to spend both weekends at the state fair. “I’ll be there for the FFA open show and for 4-H,” she said. “I love it. It’s really fun.”

Like other 4-Hers, Nemitz is in charge of caring for her livestock throughout the fair. Despite the heat, she said they all seemed to be doing well.

“I’m just keeping all the animals watered, the fans on them and spraying the pigs down,” she said.

Nemitz will be a senior in the fall and plans on going into beef breeding and genetics, more on the research side of things, in the future. She’s already building her own small herd of cattle.

“I have four head of cattle, plus two more calves, so six head so far,” Nemitz said. “It’s exciting.”

In the 4-H cook off, four teams of two battled against each other.

“Jennie-O donated $500 for this,” said Darlyce Rangaard, who worked with the University of Minnesota Extension program. “It’s the third year we’ve done this. The first year, it was beef and last year, it was pork. There were only three teams the first two years, so it’s growing. Anytime kids get hands-on experiences, it’s great.”

Danielle Gibbon, a summer intern for Extension, explained the rules to the eight competitors.

“You will have one hour to complete your turkey dish,” Gibbon said. “When your dish is complete, you will dish it up and present it to the judges on the place setting you brought with today. You will be judged on five areas: appearance of cooking area, presentation of dish place setting, appearance of dish, tenderness of dish and flavor of dish.”

Rangaard emphasized the importance of safety, adding that meat thermometers were provided to assure the meat was cooked properly. “I do a lot of nutrition education, so I do a lot of cooking with youth to adults,” she said. “It’s important to make sure everything is clean, make sure you wear gloves and make sure to cook everything to the desired consistency and temperature (165 degrees). We don’t want anybody going home sick.”

While the teams got to work, the three judges – Chris Parrish, Gordon Rangaard and county commissioner Glen Kack — received their instructions. At the end of the competition, there were two ties. Monica Gray of Porter and Collin Bueltel of Canby received reserve champion honors, as did Zahndra Bordewyk of rural Taunton and Hayley Vold, who is from the rural Clarkfield and Hazel Run area.

Canby sisters Elise and Grace Hansen tied for championship honors.

“I think it went well,” 13-year-old Elise Hansen said. “Working with my sister, it’s kind of hard because she’s 9 and she doesn’t know how to cut everything or know everything about it.”

Hansen also won the competition last year, though she had three other team members to split duties with. Hansen has aspirations of being in the food service industry in the future.

“I’ve always wanted to cook,” she said. “I want to own my own bakery when I grow up.”

Travis Vold of rural Hazel Run and Landon Olson of Canby also received championship honors with their turkey loin dish.

“It feels pretty good to win,” Olson said. “We had green peppers, red pepper, onions and potatoes with our dish.”

The team only had to deal with a single challenge, they said.

“The power kept going on and off, so it would get colder and warmer,” Olson said. “So we had to deal with that. We had to keep checking it.”

Vold came up with a name for their dish.

“It’s TL bacon-wrapped turkey,” he said. “It’s T for Travis and L for Landon.”

Vold said he enjoyed participating in the cooking contest. Courtesy of Rangaard, he also learned how to properly cut up garlic.

“I showed some of them a few cutting skills,” Rangaard said. “Now they know how to do it. I was impressed with all the teams. I can tell they have some really good cooking skills.”

Another highlight on Saturday afternoon was the 4-H pet show, which included a variety of animals of all sizes.

Five-year-old Ava Resler and her 2-year-old sister, Addision, showed the largest animal — a red and white calf. Cousin Mya Pesek helped Addison lead the well-groomed calf.

“I’ve done the pet show for three years,” Ava Resler said. “I think it’s fun.”

Burr Busters 4-Her Stephanie Thooft had a largest dog — a great Pyrenees named Clyde.

“I have to tell them what he eats, what his name is and what kind of dog he is,” 8-year-old Thooft said prior to the pet show. “I also have to tell how old he is. He’s 2.”

The smallest animal was a kitten shown by 3-year-old Cayleigh Bordewyk. Her brother Sage Bordewyk, 6, showed a corgi.

A couple sets of twins also took part in the small animal show. Addison and Elizabeth Jorgens lead sheep into the ring and answered questions about them. Six-year-old Lucas Sterzinger of Ivanhoe showed a goat, while his twin brother, Jacob, led their 8-week-old bulldog into the ring.

“It was fun,” Lucas Sterzinger said. “I’m going to bring a cat next time (for the Lincoln County fair).”

Attendance began to pick up later in the afternoon. Our Savior’s Lutheran Church dining hall volunteer Rick Bueltel of Canby said that evenings are typically busier as the grandstand starts to fill up.

“People come in for supper and then afterwards, they come back for pie,” Bueltel said. “We haven’t had many customers this afternoon. I think it’s because of the heat.”