His first job at the Steele County Fair was taking tickets at a dance revue when he was 12 years old. That was 81 years ago. Dick Reinhardt was recognized for his many years of service during Sunday night's awards program.

He officially became a board member in 1960, but fondly remembers the time before that as a ticket taker and a messenger before walkie talkies were put into regular use on the fairgrounds.

As a board member, Reinhardt was a longtime treasurer and worked in the fair bank after that. The 93-year-old has been off the board for a couple of years but was honored with a standing ovation Sunday for 59 years of service. He also spent 55 years as in the ticket audit office with the Minnesota State Fair.

Rienhardt said about the people you meet working at the fair, "They're good friends. You know they are or they wouldn't be in the business in the first place. It means a lot to them to be friends with people like us. There's good people wherever you go."

The evening opened with a moment of silence to remember those in the fair family that have passed away over the last year including Gail Arnfelt, the wife of former fair board director Paul Arnfelt, former fair secretary Jim Gleason, and superintendents Dave Fandel, Dick Schleich and Steve Stansberry.

A prayer written by Gleason was read.

Lord, as a new year begins and we start to prepare
Lord we ask for your blessings with this prayer for the fair

Watch over our fair, keeping it safe
Provide good weather all over the place
Fair volunteers are all groups of friends
Give them courage and strength and a shoulder to lend
Lord, help us put smiles on lots of faces
From coast to coast in sorts of places
Help us show all our visitors how much we care
And how happy we are they came to our fair

Brad Fischer, Townsquare Media (2016)

Others saluted for their service time included director Tim Arlt for 40 years. With his intention to retire soon, fair manager Scott Kozelka presented him with a fishing pole.

Service award winners included

  • Stephanie Kolbe, 35 years, wood carving
  • Mark Ditlevson, 30 years, director
  • Denise Lage, 20 years, office staff
  • Doug Hughes, 20 years, aerial photography
  • Pat King, 20 years, grains and grasses
  • Deb Mather, 20 years, hobbies and data entry
  • Leo Seykora, 20 years, organic crops
  • Roger Noble, 15 years, director
  • Brenty Svenby, 10 years, director
  • Brad Svenby, 10 years, insurance
  • Karen VonRuden, 5 years, dairy cattle
  • Naomi Jirele, 5 years, fine arts
  • Cary Larson, 5 years, goats
  • Dillon Noble, 5 years, organic crops
  • Glen Meger, 5 years, director