Deschene named Fair Person of the Year

The 2022 Stearns County Fair marked the 50th year Jodie Deschene has been involved in the longstanding area celebration. Last week, her work was recognized when she won the Minnesota Federation of County Fairs District 6 Fair Person of the Year award, a testament to her dedication.

“When they announced my name, I was pretty shocked,” Deschene said.

Deschene’s involvement in the Stearns County Fair began in 1972 when she joined her mother, Dutch Wiener, who was then the entry secretary for the fair. Deschene wrote out the judges’ sheets, took care of bathrooms and sold ride tickets. Her father, Vic Wiener, was also the beer garden manager, so the whole family was always out at the Stearns County Fairgrounds when it was underway.

In 2004, Deschene was voted onto the Stearns County Fair board of directors, a position she maintains to this day. She has also been the fair’s entry secretary ever since that process became computerized.

“When we went to the computer, my mom said, ‘I’m not learning the computer; you do it,’” Deschene said. “I learned how to do all of the computer entry, and she was my helper, so we swapped roles.”

Deschene has also been the fair’s treasurer for about 15 years. She loves returning to the fair every time the season comes around.

“You either love it or you don’t love it, and it’s a lot of work,” Deschene said. “Every day, you have 8,000 people coming through, and you have to plan a party. It’s fun.”

From local regulars to volunteers who come from as far as Sout Haven to run barns, Deschene enjoys forming friendships with everyone who makes the annual fair a reality; these friendships have become a sort of fair family for her. She has written Fair Person of the Year award applications before, and two of her colleagues have received the honor: Jackie Spoden-Bolz in 2016 and Laura Wuertz in 2017.

Deschene was presented the Fair Person of the Year award at this year’s Minnesota Federation of County Fairs and the State Agriculture Society Convention, from Jan. 12-15; the award itself was announced on Jan. 14, but her family and friends found out she had won in advance.

“Jackie (Spoden-Bolz) nominated me, so she found out Wednesday at the convention, and then she told the rest of the people from Stearns County who were there,” Deschene said. “They knew and kept it hush-hush.”

When Deschene did find out she was this year’s honoree, though, she was in total disbelief.

“I had no clue at all,” Deschene said. “I still chuckle and laugh about it.”

Deschene, having submitted Fair Person of the Year applications before, strongly doubted she would qualify for the honor because the application asks for the nominee’s community involvement beyond the fair.

“I don’t have outside involvement with other organizations,” Deschene said. “I’m with family when I’m not at the fair, so I thought I’d never be up for it because I have no other commitments.”

For Deschene, being the recipient of the Fair Person of the Year Award is especially flattering because its previous recipients – her colleagues included – have filled some pretty big shoes in their county fair careers.

“To be considered with them, it’s a total honor,” Deschene said.

With her ribbon hanging on the wall alongside her colleagues, Deschene is more than ready to work in her 51st Stearns County Fair.

“I’ve got it in my blood,” Deschene said. “I don’t plan on quitting anytime soon.”