Mount Olivet Home resident Shirley Oquist watched on Aug. 28 as Kevin Bender took a turn inside a dunk tank outside of the Windom senior home.
“Sign him up for a bonus,” she quipped.
Oquist was among the dozens of Mount Olivet residents who participated in the facility’s first-ever “state fair” celebration. The two-hour-long event, which coincided with the actual Minnesota State Fair, featured fair-style food, games and entertainment, including a classic car show and a stilt walker.
The goal was to give residents an afternoon of fun and a chance to reminisce about past experiences at the Great Minnesota Get-Together, said Brenda Howard-Larson, Mount Olivet’s director of therapeutic recreation.
“The more we can get them an outing, the more we can bring to them, the more we can foster relationships and bring their memories to life,” she said.
Mount Olivet, located at 55th & Lyndale, includes a 155-bed nursing home and a 92-room retirement home.
Tom Litceky, Mount Olivet’s director of community relations, said the facility’s therapeutic recreation staff has traditionally taken residents to the State Fair, which concluded Sept. 2. He said that has become more difficult over the years as residents’ health needs have changed.
Howard-Larson said she thought it would be fun to bring the fair to residents. Staff worked for two months on the event, she said, decorating the facility and creating their version of a grandstand and an arts-and-crafts building.
During the event, residents walked around with foods like soft serve ice cream and cotton candy, checking out the classic cars and laughing as staff fell into the dunk tank. Many had family or volunteers with them.
Resident Martha Scarver led a version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and then joined the Mount Olivet choir for songs like “America the Beautiful” and “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Her son James recorded her singing on his phone.
“To hear her sing [means] the mind is working good,” he said.
Bryan Barth, a volunteer of 19 years who manned a carnival game, said he thought the event had a true “fair feel.”
“It’s fun to see [the residents] get excited about it,” he said.
Resident Mary Brown said her favorite part of the event was the singing and the popcorn, which was fresh from an old-fashioned popcorn cart.
Resident Jack Wiborg, who had attended the actual State Fair the day before, said he was grateful to the Mount Olivet staff for hosting the event.
“It’s beautiful,” resident Beth Jones added.
John Allen Bolder, who also sang in the choir, said he enjoys the cotton candy and the merry-go-round at the Falcon Heights fairgrounds, though he said he also loved Mount Olivet’s version.
Howard-Larson said residents at the facility still have a lot of living left to do but that staff has to “create the magic.” She said many of the residents’ lives become focused on what’s happening at the facility and events like these give them something to look forward to.
“I love seeing staff and families and friends find one another,” she said. “There’s such joy in this work.”