Yvonne Cory, of rural Easton, carefully lays out an apron dating back to the late 1800s. The material is thin and worn and there are a half dozen delicately patched holes scattered throughout the fabric. Cory explains that when this apron came into her possession, it was in even tougher shape the fabric was yellowed and lifeless but once she spruced it up, the now white apron is full of life again.
Each apron that Cory meticulously cares for has a past, but even more fascinating is the story of Yvonne Cory herself. She will be recognized at the 2014 Faribault County Fair as the Fair Person of the Year.
As a young girl, Cory and her mother and father began to frequent the Faribault County Fair. It wasn't until she graduated from Minnesota State University, Mankato and began teaching at the Blue Earth Area Junior High that Cory became deeply involved with the fair.
"I was asked to help in Floral Hall around 1983 and that's basically how I got started participating in the fair," Cory said. "I was so happy to be asked because the fair is my life and has been since I was a young girl."
During this time, Cory was a Family and Consumer Science teacher at the junior high. In 1987, she was asked to join the fair board and was simultaneously asked to be the superintendent of Floral Hall. She graciously accepted both roles and served in each position until 1989.
Cory retired from teaching in 2002, and in 2003 she was asked if she would be interested in piecing together the annual fair book. Her first published fair book was released the following year.
"Starting from ground zero and only having old books to look through, along with help from Shirley Johnson, I was able to piece together the steps in creating the fair book," Cory said.
She began to serve on the fair board once again in 2003 as the advertising and marketing representative and grant writer. She became so involved with her position that she even gave a grant writing workshop at the State Fair Convention where she was able to meet and network with people from across America.
"I have networked with people from coast to coast, border to border," Cory said.
Among other major accomplishments at the fair, Cory is most proud of producing the tagline "A Giant Gathering Under the Oaks," writing grants, accumulating more than 300 advertisements for the fair, starting the contest program and the Saturday morning Veteran's Program, and writing the Faribault County Fair History book.
"I researched for days, gathered the information and pictures, and pulled it all together and I was able to develop this history book," Cory said.
Of all the ways that Cory has participated and contributed to the Faribault County Fair, it's the adults, children, fair board members and fair workers who truly make all of her efforts worthwhile.
"I love people and working with people. When I get in the fair setting, I just become so happy," Cory said. "It's such a joyful time!"
Cory's love of working with people and her background as a teacher has produced a passion within her. During her time off from the fair, and even during the fair, Cory gives presentations from her program, "Joys and Tears in the Apron Strings."
"Doing these presentations is like stepping back into the classroom," Cory said.
The first show that she performed for an audience was at the 2010 Faribault County Fair. Since then, her presentations have grown in number this year alone, she will give five presentations at five separate fairs.
She will be presenting at the 2014 Faribault County Fair in the fiber arts building Thursday, July 24, at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Though her programs originated at the fair, she has branched out and has begun to give presentations in libraries, historical societies, long term care facilities, schools and church groups all year round. She performs each show in a different costume which reflects the content of the presentation and each show runs about one hour in length. Cory began these programs in order to spark a memory among audience members.
"What's so rewarding is watching people's faces," Cory explains. "When you see the light bulb come on, the smiles come up and you see their faces gleaming, you know that you've created a memory."
Growing up, Cory had always watched her mother sew. When she received her first sewing machine for Christmas at seven years old, she began to sew on her own. It's the hard work, dedication and love that Cory witnessed her mother put into sewing aprons and other textiles that inspired her to begin these programs.
"I've had so many influential people in my life my great-grandmother, grandmother and mother who all wore aprons," Cory said.
Cory wants her audience to walk away from her presentations with an appreciation of the work and artistry that went into making the aprons. She also wants audience members to rekindle memories of their own loved ones who wore aprons in the past.