Even before the Steele County Free Fair officially opened on Tuesday, the Equine and Livestock Halls of Fame honored their newest members.

The ceremonies inside the show arena started with the Steele County Sheriff's Posse going into the Equine Hall of Fame. That was followed by the Livestock Hall of Fame induction recognizing Mark Ihlenfeld and Ron Eustice.

Ihlenfeld has been an active member of the Steele County Pork Producers since 1981. His swine farm was used as a research facility by the University of Minnesota for more than 10 years. Ihlenfeld was an innovator of new ways to raise pigs. He has previously won the Outstanding Young Farmer award and Farm Family of the Year honor.

Eustice was executive director of the Minnesota Beef Council for more than 20 years. He traveled around the world promoting the United State beef industry. Eustice is a member of the Minnesota Livestock Breeders Hall of Fame.

The Ken and Lisa Kern family was also singled out as the Farm Family of the Year. They purchased a farm in southern Steele County in 2001, growing it steadily over the years. Several family members assist in farming operations.

The Elmer Reseland Stage was dedicated Tuesday evening. The stage honors the longtime fair secretary / manager who passes away in 2012 during fair week. The stage is just east of the 4-H building. Entertainment on the stage includes the "Thank a Farmer" program and Enticing Entertainment each day of the fair. The Owatonna Gymnastics Club will perform there Thursday and Friday at 4PM.

Roy Koenig, Townsquare Media