Crow Wing County Fair: Day Care Day brings smiles and laughter to lots of kids
The youngsters had no problem sharing their day Wednesday, July 31, at the Crow Wing County Fair in Brainerd with the senior citizens.
Wednesday, known as Senior Day at the fair, has also been called Day Care Day for the past 15 years, inviting the oldest and the youngest generations to the county fair.
There were 178 boys and girls -- mainly preschoolers, ages 3-5 -- who sat eagerly Wednesday morning in the bleachers of the Mills Free Stage waiting to take a tour of the fairgrounds. They probably couldn’t have asked for a better day as the weather was sunny with temperatures in the 70s with a light breeze.
Each child who attends a private or public day care in Crow Wing County was invited to the Day Care Day event and received a T-shirt complimentary from the Crow Wing County Fair Association.
Kathy Stevens, who was a day care provider for 20 years, organized the event. She said when Day Care Day began at the fair, there were about 50 children who attended. It has since grown to hosting close to 200 children.
“It’s a great experience for the children,” Stevens said. “They learn about 4-H, they learn about life skills. Some have never seen animals before and get to come here to the fair and see them up close and touch them.
“If I ever won the lottery I would donate it to the 4-H and FFA programs because they are real skill builders for the kids and gives them the skills they need to do public speaking, record keeping, accounting and taking care of animals and plants. These programs are great for kids.”
And Stevens knows children. After 20 years of having a private day care, she retired and went to work at Learning Tree Preschool in Brainerd for four years. Now she works as a substitute teacher in the Crosby-Ironton and Brainerd school districts. While a provider, Stevens was the president of the Day Care Association and was named Provider of the Year.
Stevens said Day Care Day is always so much fun for the children. She said they have wonderful sponsors who make the day even greater. The children were given free admission to two exhibits at the fair -- the White Tiger Discovery, an education and outreach exhibit; and the Cock-A-Doodle Zoo, which has roughly 30 different species of animals.
The children toured the fairgrounds, with the biggest draw being the barns to see the animals. The second favorite, most of the children said, was going through Kids Kountry and the FFA Kiddie Barnyard in the Agriculture Learning Center, sponsored by the FFA and FFA Alumni.
Leanna Holmin, a day care provider in Brainerd, brought five children to the fair for Day Care Day. Holmin said she had never attended the event with the day care children, but decided to get involved this year.
“I thought it’d be fun to go out and explore the fairgrounds,” Holmin said. “We are first-timers and we like animals, the kids love them and love to go on some of the rides.”
One of Holmin’s day care children -- Sophia Peterson, 6, Brainerd -- said she likes to go to the fair to see the barn animals and “the different animals that we’ve never seen before, like a lion.
“I like cows because they are black and white and I really like black and white. I like to eat at the fair, too.”
Staff at Annie’s Child Care Learning Center, with two locations in Brainerd -- one south on Business Highway 371 and the second one at the Central Lakes College campus -- brought 70 preschoolers to the event.
The owner, Joann Ostrowski, said she has brought children to the fair for Day Care Day for the past 12 years.
“It’s that time of year for them to get out in the community instead of being in the child care center,” Ostrowski said. “A lot of the kids have never seen animals before and a lot of them have never been to the fair. It’s a learning experience for them to be here.”
Ostrowski said the children work on their listening skills, how to stay in line and holding hands as staff and volunteers guide the children throughout the fairgrounds.
Addison Smieja, 4, Brainerd, attends Annie’s and said she likes to play the games at the fair such as “throwing stuff, like balls.” Addison said she saw chickens and a lion and was excited to see more animals.
“I like ice cream,” she added.
“The best part of this is just seeing their faces and seeing how excited they are,” said Tasha Koering, assistant director of Annie’s, about Day Care Day. “The kids know we go every year. They like to see the animals and the tractors and Kids Kountry.”
Michelle Blong has been a day care provider in Brainerd for the past 35 years. She has brought her day care children to the fair since the honorary day began. On Wednesday, she brought a dozen children between the ages of 1-11 to the fair.
“It’s nice for the kids to check out anything they want,” Blong said. “... Everyone is so nice and so welcoming.
“It’s great for the kids to experience this. It’s fun for all ages. The kids love the animals the best. It’s nice to have the people with the tigers and for the 4-H kids to show their animals and for the kids to see all the cool exhibits. The exhibit where kids can pretend to be a farmer is our favorite activity of all. You throw on an apron and pretend you are a farmer. You plant your seeds, grow them and pick and harvest them. … It is awesome.”
One of Blong’s day care children, Kamryn Kraemer, 11, Brainerd, said what she enjoys best at the fair is petting the animals and going on the carnival rides.
“I like the bunnies the best,” Kamryn said “I like the babies, they are so fluffy. I don’t know what ride I like the best, I love all the rides.”
Another day care center at Day Care Day was Teeny Bubbles off Highway 371, north of Brainerd. Denise Blood, one of four owners, said they brought 25 preschoolers to the fair. Blood said she is thankful the fair offers this day to the day care children. She said it is an opportunity for the children to see the animals up close and to see animals they normally wouldn’t see. She said the vendors also offer fun things for the children and they also enjoy the Kids Kountry.
“The biggest draw for the kids is the animals and now they have the zoo exhibits where the kids can see the white tigers,” Blood said. “It is a wonderful opportunity.”
Aurora Ellis, 5, Brainerd, who attends Teeny Bubbles, said she likes a lot of stuff at the county fair.
“I like coming with my mommy and daddy and I really like the pony rides,” she said. “I like coming here today because they are really good friends and I like everybody. I like tigers and yeah they were white ones, too, cool.
“I also like cotton candy.”
Kirsten Schroer, a 2018 Brainerd High School graduate who attends Concordia College in Moorhead, took a moment to talk to the day care children as the 2019 Crow Wing County 4-H summer intern. Schroer joined 4-H when she was a young child and said it has really helped her grow into the adult she is now.
“4-H has a place for every interest for kids,” Schroer said. “Kids will say ‘I like biking,’ and I’ll say ‘4-H has a project for that.’ They’ll say ‘I like swimming,’ and I’ll say ‘4-H has a project for that.’ 4-H is really cool and unique because kids with any interest at any age … will find something they like and they learn so many life skills.”
As a summer intern through 4-H, Schroer helps run all the livestock shows and coordinates everything in the 4-H building.
“I can honestly say that without 4-H I wouldn’t be standing here now and speaking to all these kids,” she said.