The 2015 Waseca County Free Fair will be short on livestock with a statewide ban on bird exhibits for the year. Despite the lack of chickens, though, the July 15-19 event will have some new attractions to offer, including a mobile 9/11 memorial.

Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation established the 9/11 Memorial Never Forget last year. The foundation was created in memory of firefighter Stephen Siller, who died during the events of 9/11.

The exhibit itself is a 53-foot trailer. Once unfolded, it becomes an 1,100-square-foot exhibit. People will see actual beams, videos and recordings from and of firefighters on the day.

Waseca County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Trevor Kanewischer brought the idea to the fair board, and after donations from the Paul and Sue Rosenau Fund, Waseca VFW, area fire departments and individuals, the board secured the memorial.

“We got enough donations to make it a three-day event,” said board president Gary Dobberstein.

The ban on bird exhibitions comes from the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, as nearly 90 Minnesota farms have been impacted by H5N2 highly-pathogenic avian influenza, or bird flu.

The risk to the public as a result of the flu is considered very low, but the health department felt the action was necessary to prevent the gathering of birds from multiple farms, which could help to spread the disease.

Waseca 4-H will not give up on the youth bird competitions at this year’s county fair, though, said program coordinator Amy Nelson.

“We’re still going to educate. The kids are still going to do a show,” she said.

The 4-H members, ranging from children to recent high school grads, will hang photos of their respective bird in a cage, and talk judges through the showmanship process. Nelson said the lack of birds puts the focus on the educational aspect.

“With live birds, judges are looking for confirmation and muscling. These exhibits will be solely on knowledge,” she said.

This year’s opening ceremony will be held Wednesday, July 15 at 6 p.m. at the fairgrounds, and will honor local veterans with a speaker, gun salute and some military music.

The fair then offers a broad and loaded schedule of activities and events over the next four days. The fair is completely free to enter with about 50,000 people expected to attend, according to Dobberstein.

“We’d like to keep it free as long as we can,” he said. “Anyone with a dollar in their pocket can get in and enjoy themselves over the weekend.”

Live entertainment ranges from magicians, to a medicine man, to live music. The tractor pull begins at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, bull riding at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, and the demolition derby at 7 p.m. Friday, all at the grandstand.

Live music includes The Blue Ringers, Chris Brooks and the Silver City Boys, Sell Out Stereo and So Big.

Dobberstein said the board sets out each year with pretty standard goals.

“We have a limited amount of funds, and try to put on best fair we can, in order to include all people and events, and still have enough funds for a fair next year,” he said.

Reach Reporter Philip Weyhe at 507-931-8576 or follow him on @LNHphilip.

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