Johnston named Fair Person of the Year

The Stevens County Fair is an event that many in our communities look forward to each year. The food, 4-H exhibits and entertainment provide a way for people to get out and enjoy the waning days of summer. While the fair is enjoyed by many, there is a much smaller group of people who serve on the Stevens County Fair Board who plan and organize the event each year.

One such fair board member, Judy Johnston, has recently been recognized as the Fair Person of the Year by the Minnesota Federation of County Fairs (MFCF).

Johnston has been serving on the Stevens County Fair Board for about 30 years, and in that time has served in many different capacities.

When she first moved to Minnesota, Johnston worked for the University of Minnesota Extension which is heavily involved with 4-H and the fair. She said she knew she wanted to get involved in working with the fair, and began by working with sheep and other livestock, and then moving into working with 4-H. “I always like to help out where I can,” she said, and that’s exactly what she did.

One of her most dedicated areas was working with sheep. Her children liked to show sheep in their youth, and even now that her children are no longer in 4-H, she still serves as the sheep superintendent. During her tenure, the sheep barn was finished on the fairgrounds. 

During her 30 years, many buildings have gone up or been finished.

Johnston says that one of the big things she’s accomplished in her time on the fair board has been the community supper that is held every year at the fair. In 1998, the Stevens County Fair was celebrating its 125th anniversary, and Johnston was tasked with coordinating the community appreciation supper, and has coordinated it ever since.

Johnston has served on the executive committee, secretary, open class superintendent among many other roles with the fair. She is also involved with homemakers, and on the show works committee as well. 

Johnston has been successful in grant writing, as well. She worked on writing grants that helped build the new bathrooms with showers, and an upgrade to the horse arena in the last five years. She hopes to continue working on finding more grants and funding to continue making improvements to the fair as well.

“I had no idea they were submitting me for that award,” said Johnston. The award was presented at the state convention for the MFCF, though she was not present. Johnston says she doesn’t attend the convention every year, and this year she wasn’t planning on attending. The other fair board members tried to encourage her to go, but didn’t want to spoil the surprise. At the last Stevens County Fair Board meeting, the board members presented her with the award and ribbon. 

The award is a recognition of the hard work and dedication that Johnston has given during her 30 years with the Stevens County Fair Board, but she shows no signs of stopping.

She looks forward to upcoming years. After adding the concert last year with Diamond Rio, Johnston is looking forward to this year’s concert with the Eli Young Band. “Everyone showed so much enthusiasm,” she says.

“The open class keeps building and building, it’s bursting at the seams,” says Johnston, and she looks forward to that continuing to grow as well. “We have something for everybody, and so much free stuff,” she says.

The Fair Person of the Year Award is a great honor, and it’s an honor not only for Johnston and the fair board, but for the entire community as well, she says, “I like to help out as much as I can.”