Whether it's a visit by the Timberworks Lumberjack Show, a school-age art program or appearances by Brodini the Magician, there are plenty new events to take in as well as the return of some favorites at this year's Houston County Fair in Caledonia.

Officially opening on Wednesday, Aug. 14, the fairgrounds will actually play host to an "early-bird" event the previous evening when (non-livestock) 4-H Entry Day projects will be on display for some live judging.

At 9 a.m. on Wednesday, the five-day event hits the ground running. Here are just a few of the activities that spectators can take in, since a complete list would fill several pages.

Wednesday is "Food Shelf Day," fair board secretary Emily Johnson reported. Parking and grandstand entrance charges will be a cash or food donation to that worthy cause.

There will be 4-H demonstrations, and the return of a "Skid Steer Rodeo" in the grandstand. The talent show will also occur on day one with the coronation of the Fair Queen and royalty during intermission at that event.

Senior Day is Thursday. The ever-popular Granny Band will be on hand while an array of shows and contests take place all over the fairgrounds.

State-level high school competitors will be honored at the entertainment tent at 6:30 p.m., and at 7 p.m., the grandstand will feature a first, as Timberworks Lumberjacks show off their skills at logrolling, axe-throwing, speed climbing, "hot saw" modified chain saw action and more.

The Cock-A-Doodle petting zoo will also be open and Brodini will amaze spectators in the arts tent with two shows (12 noon and 3 p.m.). Both will be on hand for the remainder of the fair.

Other events include the Red Hatters Contest and a variety of cooking competitions, including several types of cookies and sweet breads.

On Friday, Kids Day will feature "fun stations" where for the young set can try interesting things. Games and prizes will take place in the entertainment tent, too.

A few of the special activities include "secret identity" masks, cave drawings, magical sketch art, design-a-bag, kaleidoscopes, woven bracelets and face painting.

Other events include the Ag Olympics at 11:30 a.m. while Brodini appears at 1:15 and 3:30 p.m. The midway is always popular with kids, and this year, the Royal West Amusements Carnival will feature rides, tests of skill and much more.

In the grandstand, the demo derby returns by popular demand, including two new classes (mini-vans and small pickups) on Friday evening. The action begins at 7 p.m.

Saturday is Family Day. A market livestock auction will begin at 9 a.m. in the show pavilion. Events include everything from a "Diaper Derby" in the entertainment tent to a barn quilt auction and hotdish and apple pie contests.

The arts tent will feature a three-legged race, a spoon/egg race and a balloon contest. Pint Size Polkas return at 12 noon while Texas Hold 'em is convening in the entertainment tent.

At 6 p.m., the earth will shake to the roar of modified tractor pulls, always a fair favorite.

Disability Day is Sunday, Aug. 18. Special food contests, beanbag tournament, lawn darts and more activities are scheduled. There will be an awards program and dog demonstration at Krech Arena at 2:30 p.m.

Other events include the Open Class Horse show, Kiddie Tractor Pull, 4-H Drill Team, Dress Your Animal contest and a Hula Hoop contest.

The field class tractor pull begins at noon with local farmers bringing in their working rides to see who will win bragging rights for owning the most powerful machine.

Throughout the fair, musical guests will also include Pint Size Polkas, Brat Pack Radio, Maiden Dixie and the Rod Cerar Orchestra.

Johnson said that the Houston County Ag Society, which is also known as the "Fair Board" includes 21 members and five associates - all volunteers. Putting on a visitor-friendly fair with a wide variety of activities occurring simultaneously is a year-round job, she added.

Board members attend fairs throughout the region, checking out possible additions to future events.

Each January, several members attend a Twin Cities convention (put on by the Minnesota Federation of County Fairs), which features presentations by prospective acts.

There are also many volunteers who are not on the fair board in any capacity. "There's a lot of behind-the-scenes people helping out that we're very grateful for," she noted.

"I've gone to a lot of fairs in the last few years, and you kind of take for granted what you have until you see what other people have. Our fair is one of the best."

"It is a free fair. You pay for your parking if you choose to use the fair lot, but we offer rides with golf carts from there to anywhere on the grounds for those who might have trouble getting around," Johnson said. The fair is visitor-friendly.

"I think our fair is really special."