Former Steele County Fair Secretary Jim Gleason stood to acknowledge a standing ovation and thank people for their support. The moment came during the annual volunteer appreciation dinner at the Beer Garden in advance of Tuesday's opening of the fair. Gleason was forced to retire late last year due to health concerns.

New fair manager Scott Kozelka thanked Gleason for assisting in the transition. Dick Reinhardt was celebrated for his 59th year with the fair. Gary Schwartz (Izaak Walton building) was recognized for 30 years.

Those with 25 years of service include Marvin Spindler (FFA), Josh Prokopec (grounds supervisor) and Myron Aldrich (stage crew). At 20 years is Brian Whitney (milk house).

Fifteen year honors belong to Jody Walters (chef), Sandy Jirele (fair board), Scott Seykora (grounds crew) and Charlie Hermann (vendor communications).

Ten-year awards went to Greg Spatenka (grandstand), Tom and Linda Stockwell (rocks and minerals), Christopher Wolfe (grounds crew) and Lowell Miller (KRFO stage).

Others were announced for reaching five years with the fair, including Mike Pierce (shuttle driver), Melissa Karl (culinary), Sharon Schleich (information station), Tom Trotman (livestock hall of fame), Jon Demars (social media) and Doug Meier (fair board).

New superintendents introduced were David Granlund (fair square stage), Jerry Carstensen (auto museum) and Terrence Flynn (homemade beer). Superintendents who will retire after this year's fair are Monica Kruschke (culinary), Gary Ridge (ATM) and Sharon and Richard Schleich.

Gleason was in good spirits and excited to help with the opening ceremonies Tuesday in Fair Square Park. Gleason is battling brain cancer, which forced him to resign over the winter after a number of years holding down his 'dream job' as secretary/manager of the fair.

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