by Dennis Dalman
It’s fair to say Dolores Supan of St. Stephen has been more times to the Benton County Fair than anyone else around – about 80 times, at least.
She not only attended all those fairs each year since the mid-1940s, but she worked there, too, each summer since 1949. And now, as of early August, she has retired.
“It was a lot of fun,” she said, “but it’s time to let the younger ones do it now.”
Raised in Sauk Rapids, Dolores Kath began going to the Benton County Fair as a pre-teenager with her mother, Bertha. Both would submit entries in the agricultural department’s category of Fruits, Vegetables, Grains.
One day, when she was 12, she and her mother were dropping off their entries when Ado Buegler, the supervisor at that time, asked Bertha if Dolores could stay on to help out because everyone was so busy.
“Yes, she can stay, as long as you bring her home safe and sound,” Bertha said to Buegler.
True to his word, he brought Dolores home safe and sound, and she came home from the fair every year after that, safe and sound. She was so good at helping out that first year, the supervisor asked her to continue each summer. Twenty-three years after starting her job, she was named supervisor of the Fruits, Vegetable, Grains division, the same job that Buegler had when he hired her.
When people would bring in entries, Supan would put them on display plates, put tags on each one and put them on shelves in preparation for the judging. She would also double-check to make sure each entry coincided precisely to the official rules. On judging day, she would present the entry categories, one by one, to the judges who would choose the best of the bunch, honoring them with blue ribbons (first place), red ribbons or white ribbons.
For many years, Supan’s grandchildren would help – for example, stapling the prize ribbons to the entries. Supan said it was a pleasure to have help from grandchildren – brothers Tyler and Sean Lovitz and the two other brothers, Mathew and Johnny Supan. In more recent years, including this last month’s fair, granddaughter Annie Supan, an eighth-grader at Holdingford High School, would help out.
Dolores Kath moved from Sauk Rapids to St. Stephen in 1959 after marrying Jerome Supan, a road-construction worker. For her first 15 years of marriage, she was a stay-at-home mom, raising daughter Cheryl (Lovitz) and son Jeff.
In the mid-1960s, Supan began volunteering at her children’s parochial schools in St. Cloud, then she worked for JC Penney for five years and finally as a receptionist, then work-station analyst for IDS, which later became American Express and still later Ameriprise Financial.
Cheryl Lovitz is a private nurse for a cardiologist at St. Cloud Hospital; son Jeff is a senior technician for St. Cloud-based SEH Engineering.
Throughout Supan’s busy life, the Benton County Fair was a big part of it. She has two boxes full of ribbons she’s won through eight decades for her entries that included lettuce, cucumbers, kohlrabi, gladioli, zinnias, marigolds and much more.
She also collects old Benton County Fair premium books – the oldest from 1925, published 12 years before she was born.
“I’ll still be going to the Benton County Fair, and it will be more relaxing since there won’t be any pressures to get all the work done,” Supan said. “And I can still submit entries if I want to.”
She and Jerome are about to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary; they’re going to take a Caribbean cruise. Last August, they visited their 50th state, Oregon. Intrepid travelers, they’ve visited six continents throughout the years – all except Antarctica. But with just about six months of Minnesota cold, Jerome said, they’re in no hurry to visit that sub-zero seventh continent any time soon.