Donnie and Susie Edelen of rural Grinnell wear their crowns as part of the fun of the 2022 Poweshiek County Fair after being named the Senior King and Queen. The couple, who met at the 1973 county fair, have been involved in 4-H and the county fair all their lives.
By J.O. Parker
Donnie and Susie Edelen of rural Grinnell met at the Poweshiek County Fair in 1973.
In the nearly 50-years since, the couple has remined active in 4-H with their three children and four grandchildren. They have also had a positive impact on the lives of area youth and fair families for many years.
That is why Donnie and Susie were named the 2022 Poweshiek County Fair Senior King and Queen.
“They have a real heart for the county fair,” someone said of the couple after they received the honor with their grandchildren by their side.
Susie, who grew up in Brooklyn, was a member of the Madison Mischiefs 4-H Club. She was active with indoor projects in cooking and sewing.
“I basically grew up going to 4-H meetings since I was two,” said Susie. “My mom was a 4-H leader for 30 years. She was also on the Poweshiek County Extension Council for five years.”
Donnie, who grew up in Grinnell, was active in the Malcom Blue Ribbon Winners 4-H Club. He enjoyed showing calves, swine and sheep.
“My sisters and I were all involved in 4-H,” recalled Donnie.
Susie was a sophomore at BGM and Donnie was a junior at Grinnell when they first met at the old fairgrounds, which was located just north of where the current fairgrounds is today.
“Your mom probably wouldn’t let you date someone like me,” Donnie recalled telling Susie when they first met.
It didn’t matter as the two hit it off from the beginning and enjoyed their first date that same fair when they went on a car ride around Grinnell with friends.
“Then he called me again,” recalled Susie.
When the couple met, Donnie said the county fair showring was an open area with a snow fence and wooden bleachers.
“The exhibit building was a Quonset type building with a kitchen on the east end,” he said.
The couple married on May 19, 1978.
They raised three children, Shawn, Shane and Sheena, and remained active in their lives and 4-H. And today, the couple enjoys being involved in the lives of their four grandchildren, Easton, Aubree, Trenten and Tanner.
In the early years, Donnie worked for Sieck Electric and Susie worked at GTE in Grinnell. Today, Susie works for Allen Financial in Grinnell and Donnie retired on April 1 after 39 years with DeKalb/Monsanto/Bayer Crop Science.
Susie spent 13-years alongside Cheryl Hanssen as co-chair of the Sheridan 4-H Club. Donnie raised sheep, later selling them to other 4-H families, and spent two terms (six years) on the Poweshiek County Fairboard.
During his time on the fairboard, Donnie headed up the ag Olympics.
The Olympic games included 4-H’ers pushing a big hay bale the length of the arena. There was also the egg game where 4-H’ers tossed an egg over a cattle shoot to another 4-H’er, who put it in a basket.
Another game had 4-H’ers using a large syringe and filling a bucket with water.
In another game, Donnie said, “4-H’ers had to dress in bib overalls and carry a suitcase and run to the finish line.”
Susie took over the fair kitchen in 2019 with the help of her sister and brother-in-law, Wayne and Marla Ross, and it has been a hit with fairgoers ever since.
“We come up with the menu,” noted Susie. “Our whole idea to take over the kitchen was to make it family friendly with affordable prices so a family can eat at the fair without breaking the bank.”
Susie, Marla and a host of volunteers handle the kitchen duties while Donnie watches over the grill and serves up tasty strawberry smoothies, even going as far as wearing a strawberry costume, to reel in customers. And new this year was an ice cream shack serving area youth and families tasty ice cream treats.
The couple said none of this would be possible without the support of both of their families and siblings, their children, grandchildren an a host of great family friends and their children stepping in and helping.
“It is fun to look out and see these kids having fun in making smoothies or hanging in the ice cream shack or ‘running to the reefer (to get supplies),’” said Susie. “I have a passion for 4-H and I feel a responsibility to help kids.”
“And we had some great fun in being called the King and Queen,” she added.