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You never know what you might find at the county fair

From the Editor's Notebook

July 27, 2009
by Chuck Hunt, Register Editor
This whole open class entry deal at the county fair has puzzled me for years.

Strolling through the buildings at the fairgrounds, people eventually go into the Horticulture and Arts and Crafts Buildings. They are both filled with items, from homemade furniture and quilts, to flowers and vegetables.

A look through the fair book produced at the Faribault County Register, shows a very long list of items a person could enter. And each item, such as lilies, for instance, has sub-categories. There are 25 sub-categories of lilies which a person can enter.

I would have thought one category of lily would be enough. If you have a lily, you enter it, and it gets judged against all of the other lilies.

But that is not the way it works. Even sub-categories such as Day Lilies and Canna Lilies are broken down, by color.

I entered an item in the open class contest at the county fair this year, for the first time ever. After attending one for 40 odd years (taking a million photos), I finally found a category for me. Homemade wine. I have made wine for several years.

This year the Faribault County Fair opened a new category for homemade wine makers like me.

Of course, it was not just one category of homemade wine. No, there were 15 different categories, and each one of those had up to 15 sub-categories.

I entered one under the ‘wine kit’ category, meaning I make my wine out of a kit. That means I buy imported wine grapes already smashed up and ready to go.

In case you are wondering, I took second place. There were probably only two entries.

My favorite item which can be entered at the fair isn’t wine, however. Buried under the horticulture department list, right under ‘gourd painting,’ is a a category called ‘Weeds.”

I am not making this up.

There are four sub-categories, which are; largest weed leaf, prettiest weed, most unique weed, and tallest weed.

There were entries for each one, too. Although I suspect the prettiest weed winner is actually a wildflower, but so be it.

Now, the one and only rule for the weed category is that they can’t be noxious weeds.

If you thought all weeds were obnoxious, you are right; but only certain ones, such as thistles and button weeds, have been legally declared ‘noxious.’

So they don’t allow these illegal, noxious weeds.

However...one illegal weed seems to have sneaked in. Unless I miss my guess, the entry for tallest weed was a marijuana plant.

Alright, technically it was a hemp plant, but both are from the Cannibis hemp family of flora.

I would suppose the hemp plant was found growing in a ditch and is a descendent from the time marijuana (I mean hemp) was grown as a cash crop in Faribault County.

Back in 1933, a man named Holtan held a meeting in Mankato to convince southern Minnesota farmers to grow hemp.

A lot of them, from Winona to Redwood Falls, signed up and thousands of acres were planted.

Holtan promised to pay $15 per ton for the harvested plants. His plan was to turn the fiber into rope.

Not being a hemp expert, Holtan gave the farmers wrong harvesting information, and the plan eventually failed.

One of the production centers was in Blue Earth, for decordification – turning the stalks into fiber. Many local farmers had invested into the company, at $500 per share. So had one of the local banks.

After sitting on the 1935 and 1936 crops without getting paid, the farmers eventually burned the harvested and stacked up weeds. I suspect many reported dizzy spells later. Besides, marijuana thieves were making off with the hemp and the farmers were tired of the noise and dogs barking in the middle of the night.

In 1937 hemp, a.k.a. marijuana, was outlawed in Minnesota, and so the remaining few farmers still growing it in 1937 were a bit outside of the law.

Little did they know that remnants of their crop would one day be entered in the 2009 Faribault County Fair.

And what better category for it than ‘Weed.’

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