OWATONNA — A haven is defined as a place of safety or refuge, typically for wildlife. It is meant to described a place where people or animals can feel safe, secure, and most importantly — happy.
Happy is exactly how the cattle at the Steele County Free Fair will be this week, as they become the first group to reside in the Wayne and Betty Kubicek Family Cattle Haven.
The new barn measuring 114-feet-by-152-feet, totaling 17,328 square feet, replaced two 61-year-old cattle barns a roof on one of the buildings succumbed to a record-breaking snowfall in February. In a race against time — and even more so the weather — the new barn was built for 4-H presented to house and show their cattle at the 2019 fair.
For Wayne and Betty Kubicek, however, they are simply pleased to be able to give back in an area of the life that has continually brought them joy.
“We just wanted to do something nice for our community,” said Wayne Kubicek as most of his family fathered on the fairgrounds to see the new barn adorned with their name. “We all survived growing up here and basically live at the fair. It’s seldom that we ever miss a day.”
Both Wayne and Betty Kubicek were born, raised, and educated in Steele County before they met and married. Consequently, they remained in the area to work and raise their family. As it is for many locals, the Steele County Free Fair became a staple in their lives as the most highly anticipated time of the year.
Over the last handful of years, the Kubiceks started to notice something concerning on the north end of the fairgrounds. The two blue barns that were used to house cattle were still “adequate enough” for the fair, but the couple recognized that they were in stark contrast to the newer, neighboring barns.
“We set it up in our estate planning to give back to the fair,” Wayne Kubicek stated, adding that he made his good friend and Fair Board President Dan Deml aware of their plans. “That way if something happened to us, our kids would know that this is something we wanted to help with.”
When the duo heard the news that the heavy snowfall caused one of the barn’s roofs to collapse, Wayne Kubicek joked with his wife that their phone would be ringing soon. Regardless, he reached out to Deml to discuss assisting with the cost of replacing the two aging buildings with a new, larger structure that would complement the others on the grounds.
“We wanted to let them know what we were intending to give to the fair, hoping that it could help make the correct, long-range decision,” Wayne Kubicek said. “We didn’t want them to just put a band-aid on the problem for now.”
“If they would have just fixed the old barn, it would still be old and the money would be gone,” Betty Kubicek added.
Nonetheless, the Kubiceks said that they put their faith in the fair board to make whatever decision they thought was best for the fair. Little did they know that their generosity would make their decision significantly easier.
“When the barn fell down, the board decided to build a new one, but was also considering the option of building a much bigger one to replace both, but we did not have enough money to make that happen,” Deml said. “Because of the Kubiceks, we were able to build the barn we have today that replaced two old buildings instead of one.”
Though their sponsorship of the new building allowed them to have their name plastered across the top of the barn, the Kubicek’s said the recognition was never what they were after.
“No fair in the Midwest compares to Steele County, and that’s not by accident. We are surrounded by good folks who give back to the community that gave so much to them,” Wayne Kubicek said. “We just helped them do what should be done. We just want to see our fair continue to be a strong, good fair.”