2023 Rice County Outstanding Senior Citizen Named
Thursday, July 20, 2023, weather was perfect for Senior Day and Day Care Day at the Rice County Fair in Faribault.
Following a meal catered by The Broaster provided by Emeralds of Fairbault a brief program was held revealing this year's Outstanding Senior Citizen.
Dennis "Denny" Blackmer of Faribault was nominated by the Rice County Historical Society, Trinity Lutheran Church and Rice County Fair.
When I arrived in Faribault to work for KDHL Radio Denny was the Fair Manager. His love of the fair is very evident because he has continued involvement by being on the Fair Board.
His fair nomination states, "He goes above and beyond in doing his part to help ensure a successful fair season. He has been found weeding more than once, helping Bernie to keep the outside neat and tidy. He travels at the drop of a hat when asked for those quick runs. He has been the one to count on for organizing the grandstand support team of ticket sellers, gate and stand attendants. He asks questions, provides support and encouragement, always with kindness and respect."
From Trinity Lutheran Church Faribault: "He volunteers with Trinity Lutheran giving many hours. He can be found cutting and bringing in the numerous rhubarb stalks to the church kitchen and helping in the process of making the many delicious pies."
Historical Society: Denny, "Has been involved for many years and is currently the Treasurer of that Board. He puts in multiple hours with their functions throughout the year. He can be found in the schoolhouse giving a tour and dressing the part of a teacher or in Harvest Halls discussing the Nutting foundry that he would visit when he was a Nutting employee. He goes out and gathers items for silent auctions during fundraising events. He was out there with the Historical Car Cruise that was in various cities throughout Rice County. He is very much appreciated for being the guy that hauls the brush away. P.S. Hazardous pay is still in processing."
Blackmer told those gathered in the Straight River Room it takes hundreds of volunteers to run the fair, keep the historical society going and make church successful.
Blackmer said he would humbly accept the beautiful plaque presented in his honor but he was doing so "on behalf of all the volunteers in the Rice County area."
If someone fills out the necessary paperwork Blackmer will represent Rice County at the State Fair.
The criteria for the State Fair differs from Rice County. The State Fair only takes into consideration volunteer efforts after the age of 65.
When Jim Hermel was the Fair Secretary a change was made locally whereby a lifetime of volunteer work is rewarded. It was noted a person could be a terrific volunteer most of their life and suffer a health issue that does not allow them to volunteer after the age of 65.
The east end of the Rice County Fairgrounds are bustling with many historical happenings. Kids love using the old wooden lawn mowers with no engines.
This was the kind of mower we had when I was a boy. I remember when my Dad brought home a mower with a motor. Of course my older brother got to use it first and I continued to push the heavy wood one.
Then when I got old enough in his mind a second power mower was brought in for me to use.
There was a huge yard at the Shady Rest Motel in Spring Valley, Mn. where I grew up, large enough for a rider that never arrived even after my older brother and I were gone from home.
There is a log cabin people can see as it was in 1856, a typical home for the time.
An old schoolhouse and church are also frozen in their time period for all to tour.
A blacksmith works near Heritage Halls to the east of the church.
Carleton College came up with the Chat (Carleton Humanities and Arts Trailer) where people can go inside and share memories of coming to the Rice County Fair through a recording.
They are hoping to get enough people to participate to make it into an exhibit at the Museum.
Inside Carlander Room in the museum is a treasure trove of quilts and embroidered items.
I visited with Historical Society Executive Director Dave Nichols about the things people of all ages can learn on the east end of the fairgrounds in Faribault.
19th century kids games. Old fashioned wringer hand clothes washers. Shelling corn and other "chores" of the era.
Old tractors grace the empty lot that had a home on it last year at fair time.
Nichols said the long range hope is to build an addition in that direction because history keeps growing with the passage of time.
We visited about the fact that in 1901 the Straight River was moved to the east to accommodate a third railway line coming to town. The three lines were, the Milwaukee Road; the Burlington, Cedar Rapids and Northern; and the Chicago and Northwestern.
The Alexander Faribault house is in it's original location. It was on top of the west bank of the river.
Historical data from the City of Faribault states the Straight River was moved one-half block to the east between Front Street (now Division) and 3rd Street North.
That would be approximately 33.3 yards (100 ft. on average) if accurate. A bend in the river between 5th Street and 9th Street North was taken out.
Ron Parker, longtime Rice County Fair Historian attempted to move the Alexander Faribault House to the Fairgrounds because he felt more people would go through the building there.
At one point he tells me Community Coop was going to pay the cost of the move but fellow board members did not want to lose the home's status on the National Register of Historic Places.
The first time I heard of the effort my response was, if they can move a river moving a house should not be a big deal.
Former Rice County Historical Society Executive Director Susan Garwood and I had several conversations about it over the years.
Loss of the national registration would mean losing some funding to assist with the upkeep of the house.
I was in agreement with Mr. Parker that many more people would probably tour the home just from a convenience standpoint. Parking is an issue currently.
There is a map in the Rice County Historical Society Museum that shows the Straight River in it's location before 1901 which is fascinating to see.
I stopped by an exhibit on Bishop Whipple. There is one about Bruce Smith and Liz Strohfus too.
You could not go through the entire museum and see everything in one day. You could spend hours and hours and be fascinated at all the history that some of have lived.
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