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Minnetrista man visits every county fair in Minnesota

MINNETRISTA — Dale Evans was at the Carver County Fair in 2011 and got an idea — he should visit more county fairs in Minnesota.

Evans, then 74, visited several fairs over the next two summers before making the decision to try to visit every county fair in the state. He started mapping out how to accomplish his new adventure.

He wasn’t trying to break any records, Evans told Lakeshore Weekly News, he just thought it would be an interesting way to spend some time in his retirement.

It took Evans five years, from 2011 to 2016, to finish his quest. He set out every late summer on the county fair circuit. The logistics, he told the newspaper, were quite difficult because neighboring counties tend not to hold their fairs on the same weekends.

Evans would try to go to multiple fairs in one day and make it back to his Minnetrista home at the end of the day, driving hundreds of miles and spending only a short while at each fair.

“Get something to eat, get a few pictures, on to the next one,” Evans said.

In 2011 and 2012, he went to seven fairs, all located southwest of the Twin Cities metro area. In 2013, he visited 19 fairs across southern Minnesota. In 2014, he traveled all over Minnesota, visiting 33 fairs. In 2015, he continued across the state, seeing 20 fairs. In 2016, Evans visited the last seven fairs. The Beltrami County Fair was the last one he visited.

In total Evans went to 86 county fairs in Minnesota’s 87 counties. Cook County is the only county Evans did not go to fair in — it is the only county in Minnesota without a fair.

Many of the fairs were similar, with animals, rides, food and more, Evans said. But there were unique things about each county — from the smallest fair to some of the largest like Pennington County Fair and Steele County Fair, which resemble the State Fair, Evans said.

“They had a bouncy house, they had a tent where you could get something to drink, that’s the smallest fair in the state,” Evans said about the Red Lake County Fair, which he visited in 2014.

Evans went alone to many of the fairs — spending hours alone in the car driving across Minnesota. There were a few fairs his wife, Barbara Evans, joined him for and they even brought their dog to one. When he went to the Pennington County Fair, his granddaughter and two of his seven great-grandchildren joined him.

Before setting out on his county fair adventure, Evans hadn’t spent much time exploring Minnesota, except for Pennington County where his granddaughter lives. One of the great outcomes of his years-long fair circuit was he got to see a lot of the state he’d spent decades living in.

Evans and his wife moved to Minnesota in 1964 when he retired from the U.S. Navy. He then worked as a pilot for Northwest Airlines for several years, before retiring early after struggling with heart issues.

Evans said he often gets bored in his retirement and finds adventures such as his county fair challenge.

He hasn’t gone to many county fairs since 2016. He’ll still go to local fairs — like the Carver County Fair — but he doesn’t travel like he did during the five years he was collecting his photos and experiences.

Evans said he’s not sure what his next adventure will be yet.

Frances Stevenson / Photo by Frances Stevenson  

A plaque from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration honors fallen Wayzata Officer William “Bill” Mathews.