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Polk County Fair features state’s biggest petting zoo, fried food, rides and whole lot more

Halstad, MN resident Nellie Todd, 5, shares her carrots with several goats at the Zerebko Petting Zoo Friday at the Polk County Fair in Fertile, MN. (Luke Franke/Grand Forks Herald)1 / 8
Sofie Grunhovd, 6, pets her calf Buddy just before participating in the 4-H contest at the Polk County Fair in Fertile, MN Friday. (Luke Franke/Grand Forks Herald)2 / 8
A zebra is seen in the Zerebko Petting Zoo Friday at the Polk County Fair in Fertile, MN. (Luke Franke/Grand Forks Herald)3 / 8
A 6-month old camel is seen at the Zerebko Petting Zoo Friday at the Polk County Fair in Fertile, MN. (Luke Franke/Grand Forks Herald)4 / 8
Amanda Zerebko retrieves a baby goat from inside it's enclosure so that Walter Zachariason, 2, and Abbygail Agnes, 11, have a chance to pet the animal up close and personal. (Luke Franke/Grand Forks Herald)5 / 8
Polk County Fair attendees walk past a disco-themed maze attraction Friday in Fertile, MN. (Luke Franke/Grand Forks Herald)6 / 8
Fertile, MN life-long resident and Lion's Club member Art Gredvig, 90, has been volunteering at the Polk County Fair for 20 years collecting money at the parking booth. An Army veteran Art served a term overseas in Japan but eventually came back home to work on his family's farm. "I have lived a good life," Art said. (Luke Franke/Grand Forks Herald)7 / 8
Children ride a midway attraction at the Polk County Fair in Fertile, MN. (Luke Franke/Grand Forks Herald)8 / 8

FERTILE, Minn. — Wally Zerebko brings his zoo of little animals to about 17 fairs around the U.S. each year — but the Polk County Fair is, by far, his favorite.

“This one makes me feel like I’m at home,” he said while standing in his tent with goats, sheep, deer, a zebra, a tortoise, a camel and more.

Topped with a black cowboy hat and smiling to many people visiting his animals Friday afternoon, Zerebko, who is from Bovey, Minn., in Itasca County, told stories of how the Polk County Fair has warmly welcomed him each year since he started bringing his petting zoo there 16 years ago.

Zerebko’s zoo is one of many attractions at the fair, which opened Wednesday and runs through Sunday.

There are 26 rides, 25 food vendors, many 4-H exhibits, shows and more, said Dan Grunhovd, president of the Polk County Fair Board. “There are things to see every day.”

One new feature at the fair is the contents of a 131-year-old pioneer log cabin on display in the 4-H tent among exhibits. The cabin was recently torn down at the fairgrounds because there was not funding to maintain the old building, said Donna Rae Carlson, a fair board member.

Fertile is about 50 miles southeast of East Grand Forks.

Family business

For Zerebko, the fair business is a family matter.

His daughter, Amanda Zerebko of Foley, Minn., has a food stand at the Polk County Fair, and the family celebrated Amanda’s daughter’s seventh birthday at the fair Friday.

Wally Zerebko said his daughter and granddaughter both help him each day getting the animals ready for what he calls is the largest traveling petting zoo in Minnesota.

Regular fair-goers will be happy to hear that Zerebko has a new addition to his zoo this year — a baby camel, Grunhovd added.

Amanda Zerebko, 30, said growing up around fairs and her parents’ petting zoo is the reason she wanted to open her food stand, Fried Food Fantasy.

“I like the fairs, but food’s a lot easier” to manage than a petting zoo, she said. Her food stand will be featured tonight on the Discovery Channel TV show “Deep Fried Masters.”

Like her dad, she has been to several fairs around the U.S., but the Polk County Fair is also her favorite, she said.

Watching her daughter and friend on the rides, Zerebko called the fair “family oriented,” agreeing with her dad that it’s “like home.”

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Charly Haley
Charly Haley covers city government for the Grand Forks Herald. As night reporter, she also has many general assignments. Before working at the Herald, she was a reporter at the Jamestown Sun and interned at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, Detroit Lakes Newspapers and the St. Cloud Times. Haley is a graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead, and her hometown is Sartell, Minn.
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