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Russell will continue to enjoy State Fair

By Carol Stender

Date Modified: 09/11/2013 10:31 AM

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FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. —Beth Russell, of Montevideo, was honored for her 50-year involvement with the Minnesota State Fair

The former Chippewa County Extension educator won't be stopping anytime soon because she is having so much fun.

Russell has been a 4-H exhibitor, Extension home economics agent, open class exhibitor and crops and crop arts department assistant during her tenure at the fair.

"It's a serious thing as you work hard on the exhibits, but it's also a celebratory time," she said. "You look at people's faces and they are smiling. It's a happy time."

She smiles easily as she recalls some of the highlights in her state fair career including the time she earned a trip with a silent pie demonstration.

Russell competed in her home county, Sibley, to win the state fair trip. Every young girl who participated made a pie from start to finish without uttering a word.

Russell put the ingredients together, rolled out the dough, sliced the apples and put the pie together in record time. However, the contest's county assistants weren't familiar with the oven that would bake her pie. The pie filling ran over in the oven and some of the crust burned.

"It wasn't the best looking one," she said.

But she got the champion ribbon.

"I was surprised," she said. "I drove home and brought the pie in the house. It looked terrible. I went back to the car and brought in a load of my supplies with the ribbon on top."

She joined 90 other winners for the state contest. They split the girls into groups, each making their pies at different times in the 4-H Building.

"And I can still make a pie in eight minutes," she said.

Russell easily recalls her state fair livestock entries. Two of them were Yorkshire gilts. She showed Esther the first year and Bess the second. Bess didn't like living alone in her pen and jumped in with another pig every night.

"The last morning at the fair, I went with one of my 4-H club friends to the barn and saw my pig walking out the door," she said. "I could tell it was my pig by her walk. When I said, 'Bess, where are you going?' she replied with a grunt, grunt grunt. She knew my voice and came back."

The next time she earned a livestock trip, Russell showed her two-year-old Holstein cow. As a calf, the animal earned a white ribbon. The next year, she received a red and in the third year, a blue ribbon.

"So you should never decide a white ribbon animal can't win as an older cow," she said.

Part of the 4-H experience was a stay in the 4-H dormitory.

"There's truly no experience the 4-H dorm," she said. "There are 44 steps to the second floor and another 44 to the third. I know that, after staying there and being near the 500 watt bulbs that came on at 6 a.m., that I can survive anything when I travel."

She didn't work at the state fair while at the University of Minnesota.

Her college courses focused on home economics. When she was a seventh grader, Russell wanted to be a high school home economics teacher. By ninth grade, she shifted her focus to Extension. Russell was hired by Clearwater County as its Extension home economics agent for three years. Then she went to Chippewa County where she served as an Extension educator for more than 30 years.

Although she never had children of her own, Russell said the youngsters at the state fair were like her kids.