Meet the Fairest of the Fair candidates

Shelby Campbell

Kelsey Hackett

Shaniah Karels

Brooke Oelfke-Hagen

Brianna Ye

Five area residents are vying for the title of Wright County Fairest of the Fair: Brianna Ye, Brooke Oelfke-Hagen, Kelsey Hackett, Shaniah Karels, and Shelby Campbell.

The coronation at the Fair is taking place on Sunday, Aug. 2, beginning at 3 p.m. on the Free Stage.

The Wright County Fair in Howard Lake began Wednesday, July 29 and concludes Sunday, Aug. 2.

Information about the five Fairest of the Fair candidates, and their answers to a few questions, follow:


Brianna Ye

Daughter of Brian and Sherry Ye of Monticello.

Why did you decide to become an ambassador candidate, and why are you a good candidate?

I decided to run for many reasons.  I grew up going to the fair every year and always considered it one of the best times during the summer.  I also grew up in Wright County my whole life and spent much of my time participating in the towns that make up our county.  I am extremely grateful to be in an area where our towns intertwine and are full of so many people who get involved, not only in their hometowns, but also their neighboring towns.

For those reasons, I have been inspired to always be outgoing, helpful, and to make a difference.  I am honored to be a candidate at the fair this year!

Tell us about your favorite Wright County Fair memory or event.

Since going to the fair every year has been a tradition, I have multiple favorite memories.  With that said, my favorite memory of the fair is simply that every year it does not disappoint.  For me, it has been the best way to bring friends and family to multiple days of fun, while in the meantime creating lasting memories.

Last year, I attended the fair three different times!  The first, I was anxious to share the fair with my friend, who came all the way from Australia to visit.  The second time, I attended the fair with multiple families from the neighborhood, including my own.  Lastly, I came to congratulate the outgoing ambassadors on their amazing year!


Brooke Oelfke-Hagen

Daughter of Rick and Susan Czanstkowski of Buffalo.

Why did you decide to become an ambassador candidate, and why are you a good candidate?

I have always been interested in royalty, because my mom was Miss Buffalo in 1981.  It was something that always appealed to me.

I made my final decision to run after talking to Chelsea, who answered some of the questions I had.

I would make a good candidate, due to the fact that I love to be around people.  I am also extremely extroverted and get lots of my energy from groups of people.  I am also very social and love to talk to and get to know new people.

Tell us about your favorite Wright County Fair memory or event.

All of my favorite memories include my family and friends.  My dad loves tractor pulls, and we have gone to the Wright County Fair many times for the rides and to watch the pull.

I have many friends who show animals, and I always love to go and talk to them and see their animals.

I really enjoy the demo derby.  My dad was a participant in it, and I have enjoyed it ever since I went to my first one.

Other than those memories, I just enjoy the atmosphere.  I love the food and rides and getting to see people I know.


Kelsey Hackett

Daughter of William and Cheri Hackett of Monticello.

Why did you decide to become an ambassador candidate, and why are you a good candidate?

I decided to become an ambassador candidate to build on an unbreakable bond with other girls from around the county and other counties.  I am a good candidate because I am respectful, responsible, caring, heart-warming, and dependable.

Tell us about your favorite Wright County Fair memory or event.

My favorite Wright County Fair memory would be trying most of the food stands that are provided, and another memory is watching and playing bingo.


Shaniah Karels

Daughter of Dale Karels and Tricia Hansen of Waverly.

Why did you decide to become an ambassador candidate, and why are you a good candidate?

I decided to become an ambassador candidate because I have lived in Wright County for my whole life, and I have been attending the Wright County Fair for as long as I can remember.  This fair holds a special place in my heart, because coming to the fair is like a family reunion; it is the one place that we all get together to have a good time.

I am a good candidate because I am responsible, easy to get along with, and I strive to be a good role model.  I represented my hometown as a 2013 Waverly Ambassador, and I believe the program taught me how to manage my time, as well as develop my public speaking skills.

I would be fully committed to the Wright County Fairest of the Fair Ambassador position, and represent the county and fair as the fun and friendly places they are.

Tell us about your favorite Wright County Fair memory or event.

My favorite Wright County Fair event is the demolition derby.  This is a special event for me, as well as my whole family, because a great majority of my aunts, uncles and cousins participate in the demolition derbies over the weekend of the fair.  With such a big family, it is one of the few places that we all come together to have a good time.

There is nothing that can compare to the rush of revving engines, hard hitting, and the crowd roaring as you cheer on family members in one of the most exciting events of the year.


Shelby Campbell

Daughter of Leroy Campbell and Donna Decker of Maple Lake.

Why did you decide to become an ambassador candidate, and why are you a good candidate?

Ever since I was little, I wanted to be a princess like my older cousin, even though I'm the biggest tomboy I know.  I had gone to the fair every year since I can remember, and remember seeing princesses every year and wanting to be just like them, but that wasn't the only contributing factor.  About four years ago, I became a part of Wright County 4-H, and this really sparked my interest.

I enjoy seeing the princesses every year at coronation and how they represent the fair and their contribution to my favorite week of summer.

So, I began to look into it after a friend of mine encouraged me to apply.

I have had a lot of experience with different leadership roles and representative programs, such as the Wright County 4-H Ambassador program.  Being a camp counselor, FFA and 4-H officers, Region FFA officer, and FFA mentor have helped me to become a strong leader and representative.  I have attended and played an active role in the Wright County Fair every year for four years now.  I can think of no better way to give back to Wright County and represent it.

Tell us about your favorite Wright County Fair memory or event.

My favorite memory would have to be my first year showing beef cattle.  We have owned cattle all my life, but I had never dreamed of showing one.  I began to show interest and my dad decided to help.

So, starting last summer, I began to work with a calf I had purchased with a grant I received from my FFA chapter.  Soon, county fair time rolled around, and it was my turn to show off what I had worked for all summer.  I had no clue what I was doing, but I took it head on!

I led the calf around and followed the judge's instructions.  I remember him referencing my calf as grand champion.  Joy overwhelmed me, and I knew I was going to advance to state fair.

Both my parents were ecstatic.  I'm positive my dad was more excited than I was.

But, all of the hard work paid off - and in my first year.

I knew I couldn't have accomplished this title without the help of my supporting dad and cousin, who spent hours teaching me how to trim, lead, wash, and train my heifer.

It was an experience and summer I will never forget.



Besser indicted by grand jury in murder case

Tom Kelly, Wright County Attorney, reports that on Tuesday, July 21, a grand jury returned an indictment on Christopher Besser, 22, of St. Michael, charging him with two counts of first-degree premeditated murder for killing his father, Todd Besser, 50, and older brother, Blake Besser, 28.

The grand jury also returned charges of second-degree intentional murder for the killing of his father and older brother.

On Saturday, May 9, 2015, at approximately 6:30 p.m., Todd Besser, an Elk River police officer, reportedly went to the home of his children in St. Michael.  According to the criminal complaint, Todd and Christopher had an argument in the garage upon Todd's arrival.  Todd went into the home and to the basement to work at a computer, as he normally did.

Christopher stayed out in the garage for a few moments, continuing to talk with his brother, Blake.  According to Kelly, Christopher then went into the home and laid on the couch for about ten minutes thinking about the issues he had with his father.  Christopher reportedly got off the couch, went to a gun cabinet, grabbed a 30-30 rifle, loaded three bullets, and went downstairs, where he allegedly shot his dad one time in the back of the head.

Christopher then went back upstairs, and when his brother, Blake, walked into the kitchen, Christopher allegedly shot Blake one time in the upper stomach/lower chest.

Christopher allegedly wiped the rifle down, put the rifle back in the gun cabinet and left the home.  As Christopher was leaving, Blake called 911 and with labored breathing informed dispatch that his brother has just shot him and he needed help.

When law enforcement officers arrived, Blake was dead, Kelly reported.

Approximately 45 minutes later, Christopher called 911 from a Kwik Stop in Monticello and turned himself in.

In Minnesota, the law does not allow county attorneys to charge first-degree premeditated murder, Kelly explained.  That charge requires the work of a grand jury.

"I would like to note the importance of citizens who participate in the grand jury proceedings and the individual sacrifices they make when they carry out this very important function in our criminal justice system.  I appreciated their time and commitment to hearing this case," Kelly said.

On Wednesday, July 22, Christopher Besser made his first appearance on the grand jury indictment before Judge Kathleen Mottl.  Bail continues at $2 million conditionally and $5 million without conditions.  He is being represented by Kevin Tierney of the Public Defender's Office.  Brian Lutes, Chief of the Criminal Division in the Wright County Attorney's Office, assisted Kelly with the grand jury proceedings.

Christopher Besser's next court appearance is set for Sept. 23, 2015.



Hanover Harvest Festival happens this Saturday

Nicole Christenson


Shannon Labat



Crystal Malewicki



Belle Wanke


The 2015 Hanover Harvest Festival is taking place this Saturday, Aug. 1 in Settler's Park and at the City Hall.

The Harvest Festival 5K Run starts at 8:30 a.m. just outside the Hanover Fire Hall.

Other activities getting underway around 8 a.m. include: a cinnamon rolls and coffee breakfast, a craft sale, a farmer's market, and a flea market.  A mariachi band begins performing at 9 a.m.

Sports activities and a car show will be getting underway around the same time.  Come and see the 5th Annual Antique & Classic Vehicle Show.  Awards will be presented at 2 p.m.

The 11th Annual Kids Fun Run starts at 10 a.m. on the grass area next to BankWest (just east of the light at C.R. 19 and 20) on River Road.

The 11th Annual Han-over Harvest Festival Parade starts at 11 a.m. on the east side of town.  The parade will head down Riverview Rd. to the downtown area and end up near BankWest.

Back at the park, the Hanover Lions will have a Beer Garden set up.  A Dance Caravan event at 11:30 a.m. is being followed by a talent show at noon.  Many children's activities are scheduled.

A duck drop at the Historic Bridge is planned at 1 p.m.

You might be able to see a North Air helicopter landing in the park at 2 p.m.

The Miss Hanover Coronation is scheduled at 3 p.m. on the main stage in the park.  The royalty program includes four candidates this year: Crystal Malewicki, sponsored by Roy C. Inc. and the Hanover Fire Department; Shannon Labat, sponsored by M. Miller Trucking and Com-fort Matters; Belle Wanke, sponsored by Maverick Construction; and Nicole Christenson, sponsored by ServPro and the Hanover Athletic Association.

The 2014 - 2015 Hanover Royalty are Miss Hanover Mallory Gutknecht and Hanover Princess Mackenzie Malewicki.

Hanover is celebrating the 11th year of the Hanover Harvest Festival and the 7th year of the Royalty Program.

A lawn mower pull begins at 4:30 p.m. behind the main stage.

Shane Martin is performing at 7:30 and 10:20 p.m.

A raffle drawing and announcements are planned at 9:45 p.m.

A fireworks display at 10 p.m. is expected to be the feature event of the evening.

You can find more information at



Highway 25 work in downtown area of Buffalo starting

Motorists on Highway 25 in Buffalo may experience delays as the road is closed between First St. S. and Highway 55 beginning this week.

According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), a short, signed detour will direct motorists along Highway 55 and First St. S.  Access to all local businesses will remain open throughout the closure.  The road will reopen by Nov. 20.

The closure is needed while crews reconstruct Highway 25 between Highway 55 and First St. S. in Buffalo.

The two-year project will: extend the four-lane segment of Highway 25 southward to Eighth St., construct a new roundabout at Highway 25/Eighth St., replace and improve aging underground utilities, improve traffic signals, provide a smooth ride, and improve sidewalks and accessibility along Highway 25 through most of downtown Buffalo.


Public open house in Buffalo July 30

The public is invited to attend an open house to learn more about plans to reconstruct Highway 25 between Catlin St. and First St. S. in Buffalo in 2015 and 2016.  The open house will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday, July 30 at Buffalo City Center, 212 Central Ave.

For more information on the project, contact Buffalo City Hall at 763-682-1181 or Justin Kannas, project manager, at 763-478-7609, or go to  You can also follow the project on Twitter @BuffaloTH25.



Solar energy zoning amendment approved by County Board

By Ed DuBois

A zoning amendment concerning solar energy farms and solar energy systems was approved during the Tuesday, July 28 Wright County Board meeting.

During some brief discussion about the matter, the county commissioners mostly expressed interest in requirements for decommissioning solar arrays at the end of a lease arrangement, which could generally last from 20-30 years.  The point was made that removing solar panels to resume farming the land would be easier than restoring a parcel that had been mined for gravel, for example.

The zoning amendment had been prepared and improved over the course of recent months, and it was recommended to the County Board by the Planning Commission.

In other business:



The Board referred a matter concerning the wRight Choice program to the Building Committee after Commissioner Pat Sawatzke expressed concern about rent for the program being paid with county funds.

Initially, federal grant money covered the rent, but those funds are no longer available.

Sawatzke and the other commissioners agreed the program has been a huge success in regard to teaching suspended high school students responsibility and helping them keep up with their studies.  Sawatzke's concern is about setting a precedent regarding the use of county funds, and he suggested that renting space for the program is the responsibility of the school districts.

Commissioner Charlie Borrell said other groups, such as 4-H, use county space without being charged rent.  He suggested the same arrangement could be set up for wRight Choice until the space being used is needed by the county.

The matter was referred to the Building Committee for further discussion.



In other actions, the Board:

* laid over a matter concerning the evaluations of department heads because a miscommunication resulted in a less impressive evaluation score for one of the department heads, and the commissioners generally agreed a top score is warranted;

* accepted a committee recommendation to obtain quotes for investigating a roof problem at the county public works building, as well as quotes on a shingle roof and a mental roof;

* accepted a committee recommendation to obtain quotes on replacing high-pressure sodium lights with LED fixtures at the Health and Human Services Center;

* accepted a committee recommendation to use about $33,000 from a workers compensation refund for purchasing safety training software, a computer system for human resources work and additional AEDs (automated external defibrillators);

* approved a contract with Clifton Larson Allen for audit services;

* canceled a tax forfeiture process on land for which the taxes were recently paid;

* approved filling the chief deputy assessor position and a sheriff's deputy position;

* authorized an application for a grant for the Victim/Witness Program; and

* approved $766,593 in claims involving 356 transactions with 197 vendors.



Iraq veteran Josh Sams of Hanover honored at special Twins game

Spc. Josh Sams


By Ed DuBois

Recovering from the trauma of serving in combat with the Army in Iraq and being injured, Spc. Joshua Sams of Hanover, along with his wife, Brittany, enjoyed a Minnesota Twins game on July 12.  He said it was the first time they had gone to Target Field.

It was the Military Appreciation Game, and Josh was recognized on the field, along with three other veterans who had also been awarded Purple Heart medals.  They each received a grant from the Minnesotans' Military Appreciation Fund (MMAF).

A 2001 St. Francis High School graduate, Josh served with the National Guard before becoming an active duty soldier five days before the 9-11 terrorist attacks in September 2001.  He was deployed to Iraq in March 2003 and made a combat (airborne) jump into the northern part of Iraq.  He was mostly involved with patrol duties after being part of the initial assault into Iraq by U.S. forces.

An ambush occurred on Oct. 18, 2003.  Josh was in a three-vehicle patrol.  He was thrown from his vehicle when an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) exploded.  He suffered a broken ankle and a crushed ulnar nerve in his left forearm, he said.

From Iraq he was transported to Kuwait and then to Germany and Italy before going home on a convalescent leave.  He stayed in the military until 2007.

He tried making a living driving truck for a while, but he has been struggling with troubles that affect many combat veterans.  Post-traumatic stress disorder treatment has been ineffective, he said.

Meanwhile, the $5,500 grant he received from the MMAF could help him go to school with hopes of working toward a better future.

Josh and Brittany, a pet groomer with a well-known pet supplies chain, met through mutual friends and married about five years ago.  They have a four-year-old daughter, Payton, and another child is due in February.

At Target Field, they were invited before the game to enjoy a brunch buffet in the Champion Club.  Brittany said she tried eggs Benedict for the first time, and the cooks prepared a special dish for Josh featuring a favorite item, ravioli.

"Our seats for the game were seven rows back from home plate, and the Twins beat Detroit 7-1," Josh said.

He and Brittany added that a nice breeze helped keep them cool.

During the on-field recognition of the veterans, Josh had a chance to chat with the other veterans.

Josh recalled that when he went to Iraq, he was young and eager.

"But it was not so fun when my friends were getting killed," he commented.

He helped with first aid for his commanding officer when the vehicle was hit by an RPG.

"My XO bled out in my arms," he said.

As for the grant from the MMAF, he said, "It's nice to know there are people out there willing to help."

He talked about possibly using the funds to get a good laptop for school.

Josh and Brittany moved to Hanover about two and a half years ago to be equidistant between their two daily destinations (the VA in St. Cloud for Josh and work in Maple Grove for Brittany).

MMAF is a statewide fundraising initiative by citizens of Minnesota for Minnesota military personnel and their families.



141 Vintage Market opens in Buffalo

New Buffalo residents Michelle and Ben Ehlinger have opened 141 Vintage Market in the downtown Buffalo Lakeview Mall.  Specializing in making creative light fixtures with antique items, they offer unique finds and a chance for you to create a light fixture.  Come and see their great variety of vintage home decor items.  They are open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.  A grand opening Aug. 6-8 could include some "good deals."

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feature photos

Two decades of clowning around

Mooseburger Clown Arts Camp offers a college of clowning, which concludes with a colorful, comical show in town

By Ed DuBois

If you want to go to a clown college, you don't have to go far.  The Mooseburger Clown Arts Camp courses, which are offered every summer at the King's House in Buffalo, cover every aspect of clowning around, whether you want to be a professional clown or an occasional clown.

At the end of the five-day camp, you can perform in an annual All Star Clown Show at the Buffalo Civic Center.  This year's show is taking place on Saturday, Aug. 1 at 6:30 p.m.  Admission is free, and if you show up half an hour early, you can enjoy some free face painting.


Picking the courses

Students at the "Moose Camp" are asked for their goals, and then they receive suggestions about picking the right courses.

"We like to hear their stories," said Tricia Manuel of Maple Lake, the founder of the camp.  A former Ringling Brothers clown, she is also known as Pricilla Mooseburger.

Some of the courses include titles such as Clowning 101, Hospital & Caring Clown and Clowning with Puppets.  Workshop topics range from mime to makeup to magic routines, plus comic movement, favorite props, gag writing, balloon tying, birthday parties, and on and on.  The choices seem endless.  Each day of the camp is packed with courses and workshops.

Many students say their spouses urged them to attend the camp.  The spouses say, "Do this for yourself."  They understand it is something their life partners want to do and will enjoy it.

Clown students laugh, recharge, help each other, and some of them say, "This experience has changed my life," Manuel said.

Unable to resist a comic impulse, she doesn't tend to stay serious very long.

"We're all a half bubble off," she added.


Twenty teachers

Students pay just over $900 (including food and lodging), and judging from the size and scope of the list of courses and workshops, they probably get their money's worth.  Beyond that, Manuel said, Moose Camp is powerful and magical, and it can be healing and supportive, as well.

Anywhere from 75-95 students enroll each year.  They learn from 20 teachers.

Manuel said the teachers come from all over, and a majority of them are among the best in their field.  Some of them, like Manuel, are former Ringling Brothers clowns.


Write, rehearse and produce

The All Star Clown Show is different every year.

"Ideas for the show come from the gag development class.  The students write, rehearse and produce throughout Moose Camp," Manuel said.

The show always opens with a mass kazoo piece, to the delight of an approximately 500-member audience.

The size of the audience has steadily grown over the years.  In the beginning, the show was presented at the community park in Maple Lake.  Later, it moved to the Sturges Park Bandshell in Buffalo.  Escaping the possible threat of thunderstorms (as well as mosquitoes), the show has been presented in the Buffalo Civic Center in recent years.

Manuel mentioned that 20 people help load equipment and props into the Civic Center, and load out after the show.  The work is more pleasant with an indoor show.


The only one like it

The very first show was in 1995.  Manuel had taught seven years at a La Crosse, Wis. clown camp, which has since closed.  She said Moose Camp is now the only one like it in the USA.

At La Crosse, she was a "featured teacher," since she was a girl clown (which was rare and unique at the time) and was a former Ringling Brothers clown (in the mid-1980s).

Manuel was living in California when she started a costume company in a garage.  She said she made costumes "circus tough" so they would last.

She returned to Maple Lake in about 1990, and her mom and dad helped her get a store going.  After all, they had business experience.  They owned and operated Manuel's Department Store in Maple Lake for many years.


Three ventures

The costume shop business steadily grew, and other ventures grew out of it.  Manuel now has three branches of her business operation, The Costume Shoppe in Maple Lake, Pricilla Mooseburger Originals (which provides clown costumes and supplies) and the Mooseburger Clown Arts Camp.

The success of The Costume Shoppe is due to "our love of dressing people up," Manuel said.

Longtime employee Katie Serrano has been a great help serving the costumers, Manuel said, and assistant Mary Christen is a brilliant costume designer, she added. Carol Northenscold and Alison Totz have also been a great help.

Manuel has a good business relationship with five independent contract "stitchers," including her mom, Cathy Manuel, who is "still with me."

Clown costumes are now sold all over the world.

"They are professional grade and made for working clowns.  They last forever," Manuel said.

She travels to clown conventions to stay in touch with her clientele.


People like to dress up

Back at home, The Costume Shoppe stays busy most of the year, but the pace picks up each fall.  Manuel has noticed that Halloween is a bigger deal here in Minnesota than in other places.

"Minnesota is the Halloween mecca of the USA," Manuel said.  "People like to dress up.  It is amazing to me how busy we are."

The shop provides rented costumes for high school plays and community theater groups.  Others rent costumes for theme parties.  Some themes include Disney, movies and Hollywood.

Annandale High School hosts theme concerts, Manuel mentioned.

Among parties the shop has served, she remembers an anniversary party in which a shotgun wedding was recreated.

Elf costumes are popular at Christmastime.  Easter bunny costumes are also popular ... and among Manuel's favorites.  "They are the cutest of all," she commented.

A "great local clown club," the Clown Arounds of Wright County, has around 20 members, who all know where they can rent or buy costumes.  They march in local parades and visit nursing homes.  They entertain at children's events and charity fundraisers.


Bringing people together

Manuel was a bit of a clown while growing up.  She remembers a first opportunity to perform when invited to march as a clown in the Annandale Fourth of July Parade.  Describing her childhood self as an "odd goofball," she said she enjoyed putting on shows for her family.

"I would drag everyone with me," she said.  "I loved being in big groups performing."

Even as an adult, she brought others together and started a fun group of performers called the Irish Washer Women.  They are an annual favorite in the Maple Lake St. Patrick's Day Parade.

Meanwhile, Moose Camp offers Manuel an opportunity every summer to bring people together and enjoy performing.  Planning for the camp is a year-round effort.

Some gratification comes along when Manuel hears about former students who work professionally or regularly spread joy voluntarily during clown appearances in their communities.


Next circus generation

Manuel is proud to say her children are now working for Ringling Brothers.  Her daughter, Julia, performs all over the country as a Ringling clown with the red circus unit.

"She is the first next generation on-the-road clown," Manuel said.

Her adopted son, DJ Weiss, is a Ringling clown with the blue unit.

Foster daughter Cali Kvistad is with Julia and works as a Ringling cook in the circus train's "pie car."  During each stay at a circus performance location, the pie car serves as a cafeteria kitchen for the circus members.


Close to 100 clowns

The Moose Camp courses and workshops have helped countless people get started in clowning.  Over the past two decades, a very effective way to teach clowning has been developed, and at the end of each information-packed camp session, the students and teachers put together one heck of a show for Buffalo area residents.

Close to 100 clowns are appearing in this year's colorful and comical performance on Aug. 1.  You are invited to come and enjoy the show in the Buffalo Civic Center.