Ruthann Kostek never has trouble staying busy. This is her 20th year participating in the Crow Wing County Fair, where she entered 19 items in the Fine Arts division.
Kostek, who lives near Merrifield, usually enters various sewing projects and other crafts projects. This year, she entered pillows, a tablecloth, a wall hanging, a children's outfit and crafts, including a bouquet she made for her daughter's approaching wedding and Christmas ornaments.
"I make a Christmas box for each of my kids for when they get married," said Kostek, who is a beautician at Bethany Good Samaritan Village. "Instead of giving them a wedding gift, I give them their Christmas box. I put things like a wreath and ornaments and stuff like that in it, and they get pretty excited about them."
Kostek's first shot at the fair world came nearly 20 years ago, when she was pregnant and bored. She had been cross-stitching for several years when her mother suggested she start making things to enter in the county fair to help ease her boredom. At the time, Kostek was pregnant with her fifth child (she has six), and said the work helped her finish out the pregnancy.
"It was my mother's idea, to be honest," said Kostek, who made between five and 10 items her first year of entering. "It kept me from being bored until I had the baby."
From there, Kostek said things just progressed until she was entering 15 items a year. This year, she said, she wound up with 19 projects because she just wasn't paying attention and got carried away.
Kostek's youngest child, Adam, 14, said his mother can take over the house with her projects, especially as the fair draws near.
"Right before the fair, she gets really nervous," said Adam. "Her stuff is all over the table and everything."
"My husband calls himself a 'fair widower,'" said Ruthann Kostek.
Kostek usually goes to the fair every day, and spends a lot of time in the Fine Arts building looking at other people's work and trying to get ideas for next year's projects. Kostek said she gets a lot of ideas from magazines and then will figure out how she can add to the pattern.
Crow Wing County Fair
Today -- Ag Day
7 p.m. -- Baja Rally Races in grandstand.
Friday -- Teen Day and Talent Contest
7 p.m. -- Demolition Derby in grandstand.
Saturday -- Kids Day
7 p.m. -- Pickup Pull in grandstand.
Sunday -- Family Bargain Day
2 p.m. -- 4x4 Mud Race in grandstand.
"Adam saw that tablecloth in a magazine and came up and told me that it was something I could do, but with different fabric," said Kostek. "Some of the ideas are just out of my head. I'll just start putting things together and it usually turns out OK."
Kostek gives a lot of her projects away to family and friends after the fair, but some of her first-place pieces can be spotted around her house. A tablecloth she made last year is on her table at home.
Kostek makes quilts many years, but did not have the time to work on one this year. She starts with new projects immediately after the fair and works through the year, in her spare time, sometimes staying up late at night when she gets on a roll.
"She'll stay up until 1 or 2 in the morning sometimes, because she says she just has to finish one more thing," said Adam.
Kostek's yo-yo tablecloth, which gained her a second-place ribbon at this year's fair, took her three weeks to make because of all the cloth yo-yos she had to make by hand. There are 160 yo-yos on the tablecloth and 56 on each pillow she made.
Kostek said the fair gives her an opportunity to do what she loves -- meet and talk with people.
"This is almost better than Christmas for me," said Kostek. "I love to visit. I just really like people and love to meet new people here."
Kostek has yet to reach her goal of winning the grand champion ribbon, though.
"I want to win a grand champion ribbon so bad," said Kostek, who said her best year to date was 1997 when she entered 15 items and won 15 ribbons. "But this just wasn't my year I guess. But that's OK. I'll be starting a new project next week, trying to do something even better.
"My parents told me when I was growing up that if you do the best you can that's all anybody can ask of you and I think that's good advice. That's what I try to do, get a little better each year."
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