'This is home'


Allysha Sample's earliest memory of the Carlton County Fair involves sleeping on top of the cows in the dairy barn with her cousins. It was cold out and the cows were warm.

Since then, the fair has always been a part of Sample's life, especially over the past eight years of directing the county's premier event.

Now Sample is stepping down. After this year's Carlton County fair is finished, she will hand over the reins to someone new.

The fair has been more than a job for Sample, so the change is bittersweet.

"For my kids, this is home," Sample said, tears in her eyes. "My sister-in-law is a superintendent for the hobby crafts/needlework, so she's involved. My brother has four kids and they love coming to the fair. My dad does the garden down here, and the pavilion is named after my mom so it's a lot of family for me."

It's where she met her husband, where her kids have grown up.

"I will never forget what the fair has done for us as a family," she said.

Still, stepping down doesn't mean Sample won't be at future fairs. With her ties to the fair running generations back, she's likely not going very far.

Sample's mom started managing the fair in 2000 and held the job for seven years. Another director took the job for awhile, but when the position opened again, Sample jumped at the opportunity.

It was an easy transition, because the fair has always been a family thing.

"I used to come when I was a kid." Sample said. "My grandpa was actually involved with the fair, too, years and years ago. He [had] one of the bigger Guernsey farms in Carlton County so it's been in our family for many years."

On top of that, her husband is the vice president of the Fair Board and she was always willing to lend a hand to her mom back when she was the director.

"I helped out in the office, during fair time I would come in answer phones," Sample said. "Just being here. ... It was always fun, something to do of course, and when I was younger as a kid everybody loved coming to the fair."

For Sample, the fair is home.

She added that because of the fairs' no-alcohol policy, people feel safe coming to the fair each year with their kids.

"Our county is very good, it's like a big huge family reunion once a year — everybody loves it," Sample said.

She takes total pride in her work.

"It is a really good fair," Sample said. "We go to a Minnesota federation of county fairs convention in January and there's over 90 county fairs in Minnesota so you get to see what other fairs are like. We have a really good fair here."

In addition, the Carlton County fair has something that no other county fair in Minnesota has anymore.

"The most unique thing about this fair is that we still have horse races," Sample said. "We're the only one left in the state of Minnesota. They've been 126 years with the horse races, and we still have a good show."

Sample said she still plans on being part of the fair each year.

"Maybe I'll sell tickets, or do something where I can come in and work and not be the boss," she said.

Sample also hopes to finally be able to enjoy the fair again.

"I can't wait to come and actually have a corndog," she said. "Everyone asks, 'do you get sick of fair food?' and I say 'I never really have fair food, I don't have time!'"

Sample also hopes that people realize how good the fair is for the county.

"Everyone is willing to help, willing to donate different stuff. Our townships support us. Most of our townships give donations every year — it's just great."

Although her time is done, managing the fair for eight years was more than rewarding for Sample. But she feels it is time for someone else to step in.

"You take total pride in it, and you do it because you love it," she said. "You're not going to get rich doing this job, but you do it because you see the end result and think 'huh, I did that.'"