Marcia Woeste of Long Prairie grew up on a dairy farm near Cokato. Since her parents had met at a county fair, 4-H and county fairs are simply part of her natural heritage. For her, it has provided a lifetime of interesting events and activities which still fill her life, now into her retirement years.
“County fairs are just part of our family,” she said. “It wouldn’t be summer without the fair.”
Woeste and her two younger brothers were all active in 4-H. Starting when she was nine, Woeste showed in dairy categories, beginning with a calf named Belle, which was a present from her grandpa.
“I also showed rabbits that first year,” she remembers. “We just put the rabbits in their cage and that was that; we had no idea why they received the ribbon they did. Things were done differently then.”
She was pleased, though, to see that her rabbits earned a blue ribbon and Belle received a red ribbon.
Over the years, she exhibited many different things including clothing, foods, home environment, sheep (one year, to make her dad happy), needle arts, leadership and dog projects with her collie, Lassie. Her last year with 4-H was about 1973.
“I went to State Fair every year I was eligible,” she said. “It was kind of scary that first year, away from home for the first time without parents.”
Her mom had recently had surgery and was in a body cast, so neither of her parents could come to the fair. But Woeste had a good friend to keep her company and teach her the ropes.
The most significant thing is the people she met staying in the 4-H dormitory who are still friends, more than 50 years later. The reunions are the best part.
“We get to see each other at the State Fair. They come and volunteer for me (with the State 4-H Dairy Show) and it’s one big party,” she said.
For several years after high school, Woeste went home for the fair only to help friends. Then, in the late 1980s, the oldest of her three children began showing at the fair. Her youngest was done showing in about 2002, so there were many fairs and a lot of projects in the years between.
This year, the family was excited to be going to the fair once again.
“All three of my kids were there at the Todd County Fair with all eight of the grandkids. It’s something special to come back for the fair,” Woeste said.
It’s only been in the last five years or so that she has begun showing things in various open classes. She’s entered quits, needle arts projects and for this year there were three kinds of cookies.
She retired from her full-time job as 4-H Youth Development program educator with the Minnesota Extension Service in December 2020, after more than 43 years. The first 25 years, she worked in Todd County. The last several years, she took a regional position covering the northeast part of Minnesota, based in Brainerd.
“I was always so involved with the Todd County Fair; that gave me the skills to work on the State Fair from a regional position. I worked more with animal science and dairy projects,” she said.
Now that she is retired, Woeste fills her time volunteering in a number of different ways. She continues to work with the State 4-H Dairy Show without the burden of being in charge. She is volunteering with the Todd County Fair as well.
“It’s just plain fun to go back as a volunteer and know the buck doesn’t stop with me. People are very grateful to have me back. The State Fair is less than one month away,” she said.
In 2017, Woeste received her 50-year award, being recognized for her years of participation with the Minnesota State Fair.
Woeste also does a great deal of judging. This year she judged one category in Cass County in June, two areas in Hubbard County in June, one category in Benton County in July and 14 project areas (51 total exhibits) in Morrison County in July. She will be judging in three different project areas in the 4-H building at the State Fair.
She spends more time working with grandchildren on their fair projects, working alongside a granddaughter who took Grand Champion with a quilt, doing a fairy garden with another grandchild and always working on dairy projects with showing heifers.
“It’s like I ‘bleed green’ because 4-H fairs are in my blood,” she said. “I was introduced so early in my life. It’s the kids I’ve worked with through the years who have made it fun for me. It’s ‘old home week’ when we meet at the fairs.”