See the judge to get your marriage off to a fair start

  • Article by: KEVIN GILES , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 27, 2012 - 7:00 PM

Vows can be pledged, or renewed, over five days at Washington County Fair.

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Pig races outside the swine barn was a crowd favorite at last year’s Washington County Fair.

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

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Want to get hitched? No, not to a horse-drawn wagon.

Matrimony comes free at the Washington County Fair, which starts Wednesday at Lake Elmo. The five-day exposition will include plenty of time to renew wedding vows with the same spouse -- or marry a new one.

"I can help some folks out and maybe make the fair more enjoyable," said District Judge Gregory Galler, who will do the honors. "It's something I want to do. It's free, stop on in."

This is the first appearance for weddings at the fair, now in its 141st year. Galler said he had no inkling how many people will show up -- no reservations are accepted -- but he sees the ceremonies as a chance to see a Washington County judge in a friendly and personal way.

That's different from the public perception in court of judges as "stodgy, grumpy guys for the most part," he said.

Ceremonies will take place on a hill overlooking the Fairest Garden. Weddings (and renewals) will be from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, and from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Participants can sign up 30 minutes in advance.

Galler said he would stay as long as necessary to get everyone hitched.

Washington County is alone in the nation in offering free weddings and vow renewals every day of the county fair "in a very open setting ... so that all other fairgoers can witness the ceremonies," said John Rheinberger, a fair board director.

Hundreds of other exhibits in the fair -- many of them traditional 4-H entries -- will show the rural heritage of Washington County and its growing urban influence. The county's population now is near 250,000.

What's new, day by day

•On Wednesday, Mary Hall's Show for Pipsqueaks at 1:30 and 2:30 p.m.; 34th Infantry Red Devil Rock Band at 4 p.m.; "Staging Cut Flowers for Judging" flower workshop at 6 p.m.; Crankshaft & The Gear Grinders with The Transmission Dancers at 8 p.m.

•On Friday, Alfy's World of Robotic Puppets from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Rice Bullriding (admission charged) at 7 p.m.; Elvis Tribute Show at 8 p.m.

•On Saturday, Alfy's World of Robotic Puppets from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Christopher Winter -- Magical Fun! at noon; Animal Talks -- featuring Animals from Down Under from noon to 2 p.m.; 34th Infantry Red Bull Band at 2:30 p.m.; O'Shea Irish Dancers at 5 p.m.

•On Sunday, 18th Century Picnic at 11 a.m.; Alfy's World of Robotic Puppets from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Living History Program -- Visit a Day in the 1800s at 1 p.m.; Brian Wicklund & The Barley Jacks -- Fiddle Playing from 3 to 5:30 p.m.

Other highlights

Traditional attractions include livestock exhibits and horse show, pig racing, a midway carnival, lumberjack demonstrations and talent shows. The lineup also includes music, gardeners, truck and tractor pulls, K-9 units, a see-saw contest, swing dancers, arts and crafts demonstrations, a livestock auction and a demolition derby. An opening day parade will be at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Kevin Giles • 651-925-5037 Twitter: @stribgiles

  • IF YOU GO

    What: Washington County Fair

    When/where: Off Hwy. 5 in Lake Elmo, opens at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday. It closes at 8 p.m. Sunday.

    Admission: $7 for anyone 16 and older, $4 for anyone 6 to 15 years old and free for anyone 5 and younger. Gates open at 7 a.m. daily and exhibit buildings are open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Parking is free.

    Information: Find exhibitor information, maps and more at www.washingtoncountyfair.org. Questions and answers about the weddings at the fair can be found at www.startribune.com/a1547.

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