MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Tom and Marie Wuertz live in Stearns County, but for nearly 20 years the couple worked every, single show at the State Fair Grandstand together. For them, it never got old.
Kind of like baseball players who start in the minors before making their way to the majors, Tom and Marie Wuertz began their grandstand careers at the Stearns County Fair decades ago.
“You know it’s so long, my youngest child is 41, so probably close to 40 years ago,” he said.
In Stearns County, demolition derbies were, and still are, a big draw.
“We started selling tickets at 5 for a 7 p.m. show. But they’d be standing in line at 2 in the afternoon to get that first ticket to get in the Grandstand,” Marie Wuertz said.
It was a good primer. In the early 2000s, they took their big show and big crowd expertise to the Great Minnesota Get-Together. Technology changed, too, from tearing tickets to more efficient methods.
“The last years you had a scanner and you could scan them in as fast as they were walking,” she said.
Doing the math it’s estimated the Wuertz’s worked about 230 State Fair shows together, sometimes running 10,000 people through in an hour. With the crowds came the stories.
“This woman came and I thought she had a baby here. And as she is going up the steps … it’s a pig,” she said.
Another time Marie Wuertz missed a chance to see her favorite singer, Alan Jackson.
“It was the last song and I can watch, and then somebody got sick going out and I had to get sanitation. End of story. I did not see him,” she said.
In the end, it was the people that made the couple come back year after year.
“The camaraderie is great. It really is. To see everything come together,” they said. “You’re only home for two days and you’re thinking, ‘Wow, can’t wait for next year.’”
Even though this is their first year of “retirement,” they still feel that way. They’ll be down enjoying the State Fair and the Grandstand, but they’ll do it now as part of the crowd they once escorted through.