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Building community

Re-energized fair board has a growing mission in Embarrass

Jodi Summit
Posted 11/23/22

EMBARRASS- At least 300 people attended the Embarrass Fair Board’s monthly pancake breakfast in November, the largest turnout since the board began the regular fundraising events earlier this …

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Building community

Re-energized fair board has a growing mission in Embarrass


EMBARRASS- At least 300 people attended the Embarrass Fair Board’s monthly pancake breakfast in November, the largest turnout since the board began the regular fundraising events earlier this year.
Timber Hall was full all morning, half with tables for pancake-eating guests, and the back half of the hall with local vendors selling crafts and other homemade items. With only four people left in line at closing time, there were three pancakes left, and no more batter.
“But some of them decided to just have ham and sausage,” said board trustee Sue Beaton. “So, we did feed everyone.”
A salute to veterans and a celebration of Roland Fowler’s 90th birthday probably helped pack in the crowd.
The 59 veterans who turned out ate for free, and that included Fowler, who is a veteran and was a longtime active member of the now-defunct Nelson-Jackson American Legion Post in Tower. He seemed to appreciate the steady stream of well-wishers as he ate his pancakes on the recent Saturday morning. Sitting with Fowler were Don Reinhardt and Ramon Berg, longtime American Legion pals. The three, along a handful of others from the former post, had flipped many pancakes themselves over the years for their own fundraisers.
And while Fowler no longer helps put on the fair board’s pancake breakfasts, he still volunteers for the board, helping sell advertising for the annual booklet.
In addition to veterans, the fair board had invited area crafters to display and sell their wares, and there were soaps, jewelry, baked goods, jellies, fiber arts, home décor, and more, giving people a head start on their holiday shopping.
Jerelyn Montgomery had recently taken up jelly making, and had an impressive display for sale, mostly made from wild berries she had picked herself. Jeanette Mellesmoen had certainly inherited her mother Judy Boyd’s talent for crafting. Both were keeping busy finishing up projects that would soon be for sale. Boyd was creating tiny multi-colored tree ornaments from a box of old buttons, and Mellesmoen was finishing off the fringe on woven mug rugs, using a tweezer to tie the short ends.
The pancake breakfasts are an important fundraiser for the fair board. They also are an important part of the social glue for the wider community. Harlan and Adeline Broten of Tower were at the breakfast, meeting up with longtime friends Walter and Corrine Schedlbauer from Babbitt. Adeline and Corrine were longtime friends, having both grown up in Greenbush in northwestern Minnesota. Both moved to the Iron Range after they married. The Embarrass pancake breakfasts have been an easy way to stay in touch.
Embarrass Region Fair Board
The board not only puts on the Embarrass Region Fair each year, but also is responsible for maintaining Timber Hall, two exhibit halls, the horse arena, and the 40 acres of grounds. Fundraising is a major job for the board.
“This was such a success,” said Beaton. “We will be looking at doing more themed pancake breakfasts.”
Beaton came to the fair board first in 2015, when the retirement of many longtime fair board members put the fair’s future in jeopardy.
“I had been a vendor at the fair in the past,” she said, “so I volunteered to help coordinate the vendors at the fair.” Then the board’s secretary resigned, and Beaton, who had office experience, stepped into that role.
“Now the board has more structure,” she said. “We have elections and vote in our officers.”
Beaton said she thinks she was born with a volunteer spirit.
“I’ve been accused of having a helium hand,” she said, noting her hand always seems to go up when volunteers are needed.
“We have a good group right now,” said Beaton. “And new blood coming to meetings.”
The fact that such a relatively small group can put on an event as large as the fair continues to amaze her.
“So much gets done by about a dozen people,” she said.
Beaton is also an active volunteer at the Vermilion Country School in Tower, where she serves on the school board.
The fair board has worked hard to attract more volunteers and has recruited new members to help lead the organization.
The board’s goal, said Beaton, is to make Timber Hall “a go-to” place. “And not just for the fair and pancake breakfasts, but we are looking at new ideas like holding bingo and dances.”
Reaching this goal will involve more than just the fair board members. They are hoping to recruit others to help put on these events.
Putting on the fair is a year-round effort, said Beaton, and the fair board meets monthly, except in December, on the third Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Timber Hall. And while fair board members all put in lots of volunteer time planning and running the fair, Beaton said the final volunteer count this year topped 100 people.
“That’s a lot of people in our community,” she said.
Timber Hall, a huge log building, was built 30 years ago.
“The building needs a lot of maintenance,” said Beaton. “We are working on a long-range plan right now.”
The upkeep needed at Timber Hall ranges from minor fixes to more major projects.
Some of the new board members, like Tana Johnson, are working on identifying and applying for grants to help fund some of the larger projects.
“We need to resurface the parking lot and put in handicap-accessible paths between Timber Hall, the exhibit buildings, and the horse arena,” said Beaton.
The building itself needs repairs or replacement on some of the doors, along with some plumbing upgrades. Other things on the wish list are the purchase of a better sound system to be used at outdoor events, as well as extending electricity to the horse arena area.
“I was searching for a way to help our community thrive,” said Johnson, a new fair board member who had moved to Embarrass in 2000 after getting married to her husband Michael, who grew up here.
“Timber Hall is a landmark for our immediate area,” she said. “Then I realized it was 100-percent operated by a nonprofit organization.”
It was Johnson who brought up the idea of honoring veterans at the November breakfast. She also helped round up an assortment of prizes donated by local business. All the veterans who attended were given a ticket for a chance to win a prize. She also recruited help to decorate Timber Hall in honor of Veterans Day.
Johnson said she is excited to work on grant writing for the group, and she is proud to be part of a group working towards bringing the community together.
“Our intention is to help the growth of our community using the resource of Timber Hall. We need to work together with other groups and communities to expand our connections in the area.”
Both Beaton and Johnson realize that there is a lot of hard work ahead.
“Change can be difficult,” said Johnson, “but growth is welcomed.”
“It is important to keep the building going and the fair alive,” said Beaton.
December pancakes
The next pancake breakfast will have a holiday theme. Pancakes and all the fixings will be served from 8- 11 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3. There will be a craft sale, and a craft table for children to create some holiday crafts. In January, the theme will be law enforcement appreciation, with free breakfasts for law enforcement officers in our area.


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