Plains Folk

Sweet Saturday


They aren’t big pieces, but if you eat thirteen little samples of Kuchen, that’s about enough for an afternoon snack.


We arrived early for the Saturday session of the 87th Annual Tri-County Fair, at the fairgrounds near Wishek, because we didn’t want to miss out on the 11th Annual Kuchen Contest, sponsored by BEK (the communications cooperative of central North Dakota). The BEK ladies were setting out the entries in the stipulated categories: cheese, peach, rhubarb, apple, prune, wedding, and other. They asked, would you like to judge the kuchen contest? Well, yeah!


Of course, you don’t want to judge kuchen on an empty stomach, so we headed over the concession stand and I had a Tonner burger: ton of hamburger, ton of cheese, ton of bacon, ton of pickles, ton of onions, and at least a ton of grease.


Then I tasted and evaluated entries in the rhubarb and wedding categories, according to a three-part rubric: taste, texture, and appearance. Really, they were all quite good, and I have no idea who won, because by then, we were on to other things.


There were heifers being judged, and pigs being shown, and the kid calf contest, and the tractor pull, which is more fun to be in than to watch, and all the other exhibits, and the carnival, which is not extensive, but it’s interesting. It’s hard to get a carnival contractor for a country fair, and so the fair board here bought its own suite of rides, fitted up its own booths, and runs the whole shebang with volunteers in red T-shirts.


After eating up the Tri-County Fair, we waddled back to the truck and put the pedal down for Ellendale, because you know, at 5:00 the Dickey County Fair serves a free pork dinner, with volunteers on their feet for hours filling plates until time for the rodeo. The pork dinner was interrupted by the final heat of the pig races, a coincidence not without irony. We saw good friends at the Dickey County Fair, but were not yet satisfied.


You see, on the way out we had stopped at Maple Valley Meats in Mapleton, because I like their Polish sausages, and then, when you get into a place like that, one thing leads to another, and pretty soon your cooler is too small. And on the bulletin board was a poster promoting the American Legion baseball tournament in progress. So we decided to swing back for the night game after our fair circuit.


Which we did, and I tell you, Hendrickson Field, a community showpiece, was just spectacular under the lights, a field of dreams, the product of hard work and dedication. They tell me the baseball coach, Kevin Bratland, is also the groundskeeper, and he does a swell job. Not only is the field manicured, but the flower planters all around are flourishing, too.


The Enderlin team wasn’t doing so well in the tournament, but Velva and Beulah played a close game, with Beulah staving off a late rally by Velva. I have to think the boys felt privileged to play in such a fine venue.


It has good hot dogs available, too, because this is, after all, the home of Maple Valley Meats. A good hot dog, some traditional ballpark snacks, and a starry drive home up the Kindred Road—it was a sweet Saturday, from kuchen to Crackerjack.


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