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50 years at the fair: Artist's fair entries span 5 decades

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Beverly Simmons stands behind some of her many pieces of art Thursday, Aug. 1, at the Fine Arts Booth at the Crow Wing County Fair. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Beverly Simmons walked around the Fine Arts Building at the Crow Wing County Fair Thursday, Aug. 1, pointing out the drawings she entered in the art contest.

Fifty years ago she could have done the same.

That’s how long Simmons, a Brainerd lakes area native, has been showing her artistic creations at the county fair.

She was just 10 years old that year and tagged along with her mom, who was working in the fair’s flower department.

“They needed help putting pictures up at the school building, so I said, ‘Can I help, too?’” Simmons said. “And they said, ‘Well, why don’t you enter your pictures?’”

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And that’s what she did.

Fifty years later, she’s still at it.

Animals are the artist’s favorite subject for her pen, pencil, crayon and marker drawings. A drawing of a ram stuck out as one of her favorite entries this year, and joined other pictures of birds, flowers, butterflies, cartoons and even a cheeseburger.

A picture of two tigers contrasted the rest, as Simmons used a method of scratching black paper with copper showing through behind.

Simmons’ love for art started at an early age.

“When I was little, my mom had me in the highchair, and then she’d give me paper and a pencil, and I would draw everything upside down,” she said.

That knack for drawing blossomed and followed Simmons through school. While attending Brainerd High School in the 1970s, she took every art class offered.

“And I still wanted another art class,” she said. “So they made one up just for me. I was the only one in the class because I really wanted to draw, and they liked the talent I had.”

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Apparently the fair judges do, too, as not a year has gone by in the last five decades when Simmons’ art hasn’t garnered awards.

This year, a reserve champion ribbon hung on a sketch of flowers she drew. Most of her other 29 entries had red and blue ribbons as well.

“This year I think the judges were a little tougher,” she said. “But that’s OK because I’m going to keep trying.”

But displaying her art isn’t all Simmons will remember about the fair in years to come.

“I met my husband here!” she exclaimed when asked about her most memorable moments over the last 50 years.

When Simmons was 21, she worked in the administrative office at the fair. When asked to help handing out ribbons in the animal barn, she met her future mother-in-law and, in turn, her future husband, Greg.

“It took another whole year before we actually met to actually go on a date because we were too shy,” she said. “And then after that year, then we got married, and then we had two little boys.”

Those two little boys are now in their 30s and carry their mother’s love for drawing.

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Simmons alone represents the family at the fair each year, though, spending many late nights and early mornings drawing in preparation.

“When it gets closer to the fair, I start to panic because I know I just have a certain amount of time,” she said. “I’ll be drawing until 4 in the morning because there’s nobody bothering me. It’s just quiet, and I can work and work and work.”

And she plans to work and work and work on her art for the fair for as long as she’s able.

Related Topics: PEOPLEEVERYDAY PEOPLECROW WING COUNTY FAIRART
Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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