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Honorary Life Member Award given to 'corn historian' after 75 years at the Minnesota State Fair

Ron Kelsey's first time at the fair was in 1947 when he was 7 years old. Now at 83, he continues to share his passion with visitors every year.

FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. — There's a lot of history at the Minnesota State Fair, but when it comes to corn history, Ron Kelsey is the guy you need to talk to.

“I mean, we’re corn people. That’s who we are,” Ron laughs.

For the last 24 years, Ron has been the superintendent of the crop displays inside the Agriculture Horticulture Building, but his connection with the fair goes back much further than that.

“I first started coming here when I was 7 years old. I came with my dad to show his corn and I have continued to come to the fair ever since,” Ron says.

In his youth, Ron competed at the fair with 4H and FFA.

He continued that passion in adulthood when he became an agriculture teacher at a high school.

“I continued to come here to the fair with my students,” Ron says.

During that time Ron also found a new hobby, collecting old seed sacks.

“It was a hobby that got out of hand, you might say,” Ron laughs.

It's safe to say Ron loves corn. He grew up with corn, works with corn and even collects sacks that hold corn. Ron’s collection includes more than 1,400 seed sacks from across the country. 

Every year he brings a portion of his collection to the State Fair so visitors can see them.

“I brought about 400 this year because that’s how much wall space we have room for,” Ron says.

But at the age of 75, he decided to take his love of corn to the next level.

“I always thought that at age 75 I should get a tattoo and I always thought if I got one it would be an ear of corn,” Ron laughs.

Ron proudly wears his corn tattoo on his right forearm.

He says the tattoo was a gift from his children and it’s an excellent conversation starter.

“I just love to talk with people at the fair. They have such great questions and great stories to tell me,” Ron says.

Few people have such a deep connection to the Minnesota State Fair. At the age of 83, Ron has been coming to the fair for 75 years. So for this monumental year, the fair honored Ron with its Honorary Life Member Award.

“The CEO called me on the phone and said they wanted to make me a Life Member. I said to him, 'How many life members do you pick each year?' He said, 'One — and you’re it,'” Ron laughs.

After more than seven decades, he still spends all 12 days at the fair, arriving every day at 6 in the morning and staying until 9 each night.

So, if you’re ever at the Minnesota State Fair, chances are, Ron is there, too, and if he has it his way, he’ll be at the fair for many years to come.



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