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Pillager's Cass County Fair is small but competitive

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PILLAGER — Cass County’s oldest county fair is a small one, but the competition in Friday’s horse judging was fueled by an age-old motivation — good old-fashioned sibling rivalry.

The Jensen siblings — Alec, 11; Elise, 10; and Lane, 7; competed against each other in more than one horse category. They might have had a broader range of competition but Louella Tembruell ran into transportation problems.

“Her truck broke down this morning,” Jackie Jensen, mother of the three equestrians, said of her acquaintance. Vehicle troubles weren’t the only factor that kept attendance low on Friday. Early morning rains and the failure of the carnival rides to show up resulted in a low turnout. Some of the halter competitions were conducted in the barn and even when the rain stopped the competitions were switched from the muddy horse arena to the grassy area in front of the barn.

It seemed most of Friday’s horse competitors on were either related or knew each other — a benefit of small county fair.

Fair officials knew the Jensen competitors as part of the Rosvold Farms contingent. Their grandparents, Mike and Ming Rosvold, raise and sell pinto and Shetland ponies in the Scandia Valley area in northern Morrison County. The Jensens live just outside of Pillager. The kids help their grandparents but Jackie Jensen credited her father with doing the bulk of the work for their horses.

“My dad ends up doing morning and evening chores,” she said.

Alec Jensen’s answer to why he likes working with the horses indicated that he likes to keep busy.

“They’re just fun,” Alec said. “It’s a lot more fun to do something than not,” he said.

Lane Jensen said he’s learned the No. 1 rule when a person is around horses is to be careful. He’s said he enjoys trotting the miniature horses. Flies are often a horse-related problem, according to Lane but they have the advantage of having tails “like a built-in fly swatter.”

His least favorite aspect of being around horses: “Getting stepped-on toes by one of your favorite horses,” Lane said.

Elise Jensen loves riding the horses and a pinto named Dia is her favorite because the Pillager girl can stand on the horse’s back.

Anne Ness, a member of the Cass County Agricultural Society, which operates the fair, said horse events are often family affairs with three or four generations participating over the years. The ag society sponsors barrel racing at the fairgrounds every Thursday night.

“We’re very family oriented,” Ness said.

She took pride in the Pillager’s 114th Cass County Fair and said grants from the Minnesota Horse Council and AgStar helped the society rewire the barn, resulting in new lights and new plug-ins.

Ness said she has to remind city-raised kids who dream about owning a pony that even a free pony isn’t really free — they all have to be watered, fed and fenced in.

The Cass County Fair in Pillager continues Saturday, July 7, with biscuits and gravy at the food booth from 8 to 11 a.m.; a 10 a.m. parade; horse judging at noon; a 1 p.m. fiddler’s contest; a 1 p.m. Texas Hold’em Tourney; an 8 p.m. performance by the Devon Worley Band and 10 p.m. fireworks.

On Sunday, July 8, the fair’s final day will feature a noon meal of broasted chicken, mashed potatoes and more. Commercial and exhibit buildings will be open from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday.

MIKE O’ROURKE, associate editor, may be reached at 855-5860 or He may be followed at

Mike O'Rourke
Mike O'Rourke began his career at the Brainerd Dispatch in 1978 as a general assignment reporter. He was named city editor in 1981 and associate editor in 1999. He covers politics and writes features and editorials.
(218) 855-5860