FARMINGTON - Henry Fox has given legendary service to the Dakota County Fair and the agricultural community.

Fox, 91, has served on the Dakota County Fair Board for more than 70 years and on Day 1 the 2018 Dakota County Fair, the board surprised him by unveiling large royal blue signs the 4-H show arena that read: Henry & Katie Fox Show Arena.

Fox loves to say Dakota County Fair is special because it showcases the best of the best. Fox said you still come to the fair each year to discover which farmer grew the tallest corn stalk or raised the strongest livestock, and the farmers cheer each other on in this sometimes difficult line of work.

"The fair was a place to show off your goods and that is the basis of any county fair or city fair or rural fair back in the day," Fox said.

Born Oct. 29, 1926, in Rosemount, Fox participated in Dakota County 4-H until aging out at 21. That year he attended a Fair Board meeting and made a few suggestions, which earned him a nomination and then election to the board. Fox's guidance and volunteering never stopped. Today Fox serves as a president emeritus and rarely, if ever, misses a meeting.

Fox also served for three years as the Dakota County 4-H Federation president. He won a trip to the National Club Congress in Chicago in 1946 when he demonstrated how a 125-watt heat lamp could act as an incubator for baby pigs without needing to heat the whole hog barn.

Fox and his late wife, Katie, founded the Happy-Go-Getters 4-H Club in Dakota County in 1939. For years, he was active with livestock projects, public speaking and demonstrations.

The former Katie Shields grew up in Hastings and was known for her quiet commitment to family and her support of his commitment to the fair. She made a mean homemade chocolate cake and volunteered hours and hours herself at the fair and at the Vermillion Bank building housed at Dakota City Heritage Village.

Dakota County Fair is definitely in Fox's blood. He said he looks forward to the fair each year and returns to reunite with farmers, friends and family. He stays in a nearby camper parked close to the newly named show arena. He reports how he looks forward to devouring a chocolate 4-H malt each day.

But this year, his fair highlight was that two granddaughters showed animals. Anne Zweber competed with her goat and dairy steer and Marykate Bigelow brought a rabbit and goat.

Fox notes he has six children and 19 grandchildren - 15 boys and four girls. All have devoted part of their lives learning hard work and values through Dakota County 4-H. Fox is proud to say all his older grandchildren have all earned college degrees and three have chosen to work in farming and agriculture.

A Dakota County man

Fox showed off his good humor by saying he is connected to Dakota County in so many ways. He is a lifelong Rosemount farmer who banks in Vermillion, attends church in Coates, has a Hastings telephone number, loves the fair in Farmington and has attended country school and raised a family in Rosemount.

Fair Board President Jeff Wright said Fox's commitments are legendary.

"The 4-H auction he built up and is very strong and this is important to the Dakota County 4-H livestock programs that we have today," Wright said, adding that Fox is valuable asset to today's fair board. "It would not be here without his decisions he made throughout the last 70 years."

Fox's parents were John Baptist Fox and Clara Conzemius of Hastings. They worked on the Rosemount farm to raise their family.

Daughter Julie Fox said her father and her mother, who died 12 years ago, handed down that work ethic.

"They both taught us kids to volunteer because when the community is good to you, then you give back to the community," she said.

"I can take credit and blame for being a part of all the buildings on the current fairgrounds, including the grandstand, except the two original building built around 1919," Fox said.

Because of Fox's continued interest in growing the fair, Wright said it has been easier for farmers to benefit as pork producers and promote agriculture.

Wright said, "Henry has a passion and drive that you don't find in everyone that has continued all these years."