year as a prep for coverage of the Logan County Fair, staff at
Lincoln Daily News get together to discuss what is going on fair
week and who will be in what location. The group also talks about
what interesting stories might be found, and what significant
changes may have occurred since last year.
This year, during that meeting, someone mentioned
they had heard a rumor that Dean Bruns, was “slowing down.” It stood
to reason, that at 90 years of age, if the long-time fair board
president wanted to ‘slow down’ he had certainly earned that right.
What does a slower version of the happy, chatty, fun loving Bruns
look like? Did it mean that maybe we wouldn’t see Dean at the fair
this year? These were questions that we decided needed to be
Sometimes referred to as “Father of the Fair,” Bruns has been
involved in the Logan County Fair for close to 70 of his 90 years,
and was an attendee and participant even before that. And, if Dean
Bruns is the father of the fair, then the beloved 'nephew of the
fair' would have to be Board Secretary Mike Maske.
This time of year, Maske is easy to find if you know how to bird dog
just a bit. Go to the fairground, look for the red pick-up and tail
it until it stops. Chances are you’ll find Mike anywhere on the
grounds, working on something very important that will help deliver
a good fair experience for visitors and exhibitors. One thing you
can be sure of is that you won’t find him with his feet propped up
sipping coffee somewhere. Like Dean, the fair belongs to him, and
while the two may not be related, they both have the Logan County
Fair in their blood.
As expected, on a warmer than warm mid-July morning, we found Maske,
zipping from one location to another checking on people who were
putting up tents, building risers, and helping out along the way.
Always happy to talk about his fair, Maske took a minute to hear the
question. Is Dean Bruns slowing down this year? Will we see him as
much as we normally do?
Maske had a slightly puzzled look, and with a furrowed brow he said
that he really didn’t know anything about Dean slowing down. He said
there was one thing he was certain of though, “as long as Dean Bruns
is able to take a breath, he will be at the Logan County Fair.”
So with a sigh of relief, knowing our beloved Dean would still be at
the fair, in spite of maybe, supposedly, slowing down, LDN staff
headed on their way, but not before getting a phone number for the
person we will now forever know as the ‘daughter of the fair,' Gayla
Gayla is Dean’s daughter, and for those who may not know, she loves
the Logan County Fair as much as her dad does. And why not, in more
than 60 years, she has missed only one day at the Logan County Fair.
We called Gayla to check on Dean, and to ask her to relay to him
that there would be a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Main Gate on
Tuesday morning, just as there has been for the last umpteen years.
In talking to her, we mentioned the rumor that Dean is slowing down
this year. She too seemed to be puzzled by the comment. If there is
any slowing down involved, Gayla said that this year she thinks she
will be the one driving the golf cart, but “dad will be right
there,” and the two of them will continue to meet and greet
visitors, and give rides to whomever needs a lift. She laughed and
said, “He would be there right now, if I was there to drive him!”
She reported that Dean has moved into town from the country. He did
so earlier this year, and took an apartment at Castle Manor in
Lincoln. She said it was a change for him and that it had taken some
getting used to, but he did like it there. She mentioned that he was
among people that he enjoyed, and like him there were those with
fond memories of the fair, and they enjoyed sharing.
She added that the fair was ever on his mind this time of year, and
every time she talked with him it was the same, “We’ve got to get
out there and check on things.” She said that she was driving him
out to the fairgrounds every chance she had, and that the weekend
before the fair she would be moving her RV to the campground to stay
That brought about the conversation about the 'daughter of the
fair.' She said that growing up and throughout her adulthood, coming
to the Logan County Fair was a must. She put it beautifully when she
said, “being at the fair just makes your heart complete.” For her
and her dad, that is truly how they feel. At the fair they are in
the thick of things. They spend time with friends, they visit the
shows, they visit the vendors, they go out and talk with people,
something Dean’s is very good at, and we suspect Gayla is too.
She shared her brief story of the fair saying that at 60 years of
age, she has been coming to the Logan County Fair MORE than 60
years, because her mom, while pregnant with Gayla never missed a
day. However, Gayla did miss a day, one day, and it was a
devastating blow. She noted that it must have been terrible because
in all her years, the memory has stayed with here.
Gayla was a young girl, but old enough that her parents allowed her
a little time out and about at the fair on her own with friends.
There were rules though, including the time she was expected to be
back at the car and ready to go home. On one particular night, she
missed the deadline, only by a few minutes, but none-the-less, she
missed the deadline. When she got to the car, her parents grounded
her, and her punishment was that on the next day, she would not be
permitted to attend the fair. Gayla said she had no recall of what
she did that day, or where she stayed, perhaps with a grandparent,
she just knew that she was hugely disappointed that she was not at
the fair. That was the first and last time she missed curfew, and
the only day in more than 60 years that she was not in attendance at
the Logan County Fair.
Dean Bruns has seen it all at the Logan County Fair, but his story
begins as a youngster. In an interview with LDN a few years ago,
Bruns said that he started attending the fair when he was a
youngster, but not with his parents. He said his parents weren’t
fair goers, but as he was growing up, a farmer across the way from
where Dean’s parents lived showed dairy cattle at the fair. One
year, Dean got a job helping with the cattle, and that resulted in
his attending the fair. He loved it. He loved the showing of cattle,
he loved the fair and all the experiences that came with it.
[to top of second column]
Dean with his Logan
County Fair Borad Vice President - Kevin Kurtz
He would go on to show cattle, become a
superintendent of the Milking Shorthorn Show, then become a part of
the fair board, and finally he would step up and take on the role of
Logan County Fair Board President, a position he has held for many
In his years at the fair, Bruns has worked to make it a good
experience for everyone.
John Fulton, former Logan County Extension Advisor and current Logan
County Fair Board member knows the investment that Bruns has made in
the fair. “Dean Bruns has become the face of the Logan County Fair.
He represents the fair at the association meetings, the Queen
Contest, and at other fairs. Before becoming the fair board
president, Dean was involved in many other ways at the fair. He was
the Milking Shorthorn Superintendent at the fair, back when the show
was so large it had its own day in the show arena. Dean also has
quite a bit of sweat equity in the fair with countless hours of
carpentry, replacing light bulbs, and even transplanting the
hackberry trees at the fairgrounds from his farm. It seems like he
worked for weeks straight on the old grandstand before each year's
fair. And, of course, Dean is always on the go at the fair. He makes
sure to welcome, and thank, everyone he meets, and makes sure the
queen gets to the right place at the right time!”
Fulton mentioned Bruns looks after the queens. It is something that
Dean takes quite seriously. You will see him every year at the
pageant, and he will be the first one to congratulate the lady who
is crowned. He loves the pageant and from time to time, has served
to lighten the mood when a night did not go completely as planned.
One such night came in 2013 when rainy weather forced the crowds to
gather inside the north exhibit barn and the queen contestants onto
the much smaller Lincoln Stage. It wasn’t the first time that had
ever happened, although fact is it doesn’t happen as often as one
On that night, LDN’s Jan Youngquist was at the pageant, and she
recorded for history how that Dean made the situation light and
funny by relating stories from the past.
“Later in the event, Dean Bruns, president of
the Logan County Fair Board, who is fondly considered "Father over
the Fair," recalled a few of the unusual years.
Now in his 64th year working the fair, Bruns has seen it all. He
observed that while the rain drove everyone into the tight quarters
of the exhibit barn, the fair is a farmer's event. Farmers are used
to dealing with the weather, and his proclamation, "They like rain!"
brought chuckles. So, those running this year's fair weren't
complaining this day.
Bruns also recalled the year that a heavy rain began during the
pageant. It became necessary to move across the midway, which was
not paved then, to finish the event.
"Luckily, there were only five contestants that year," Bruns
remembered, as when the contestants crossed the midway, they all
lost their shoes in the mud. After they finished, the girls all had
to go back into the mud to find their shoes.”
Dean also loves attending the traditional Wednesday night grandstand
event at the fair, the 4-H scrambles. In 2016 he talked about that
part of the show along with going out and watching the kids show
their livestock in the show barns at the north end of the
fairground, saying it was an important part of our fair tradition,
and one that he loves to see each year.
Logan County Extension Advisor, Terri Miller,
recently expressed her appreciation for Bruns and all the fair board
members, noting that the Extension is really blessed to have the
full support of the board members. “Dean and the county fair have
always been great supporters of Extension and 4-H, including
allowing us the use of facilities and buildings for events,
workshops, our Master Gardeners Plant Sale, the Calf Scramble, and
of course the Extension Office. Our participating youth, volunteers,
and staff have always received a warm welcome. We are so
appreciative of his and the fair board’s efforts and are very
grateful for such strong support.”
For Dean, supporting 4-H is cultivating the future, and assuring
that if and when he does retire, there will be those who love the
fair as much as he does, and who will step up and take on the task
of being a wonderful fair ambassador.
Dean’s passion for the fair is strong, and it is valuable to the
fair, as was well noted by his Board Vice-President Kevin Kurtz. “It
would be hard to find someone with a stronger passion for the Logan
County Fair than Dean. He loves fair week, to see the community come
together every year to catch up with friends.”
So, has Dean Bruns “slowed down?” Perhaps a bit. And
what does that look like? Well, what we can tell you right now is
that at 9 a.m. on Tuesday morning he was front and center at the
ribbon cutting ceremony smiling and tending to his queen and helping
to snip the ribbon on his fair.
We anticipate seeing him on Wednesday out and about and he will be
keeping an eye on the dairy show. And perhaps, unbeknownst to
anyone, he will spend time with a future fair board member, who is
inspired by the ‘Father of the Fair,” to be a part of one of the
greatest events of the year in Logan County.