Morrice deserving of Fame status

Friday, August 5, 2022
(Sentinel Photo by Beverly Van Buskirk) Dennis Morrice was inducted into the Plymouth County Hall of Fame on Sunday evening. Morrice has been instrumental in educating the public on agriculture through the “aROUND the farm in the BARN” display.

PLYMOUTH CO. — A Plymouth County Fair Hall of Fame 2022 honor was presented Sunday afternoon in Pioneer Village just before the annual fair auction.

Getting the recipient, Dennis Morrice, to be in the area took a bit of work, but fair board member Candice Nash Farrer was able to get him there for the presentation.

Fair Board President Loren Schnepf, with Morrice at his side, started by saying, “Our 2022 inductee came to Le Mars in 2011, taking a position with KLEM radio. Agricultural reporting is one of his specialties.”

In 2014, he became instrumental in “aROUND the farm in the BARN,” a project that hosts different agricultural education exhibits featured inside the famous Tonsfeldt Round Barn at the Plymouth County Fair.

“He was the idea man behind most of the vision and what is featured each year. He has a passion for ‘aROUND the farm in the BARN’ and executes this beautifully each year here on the Plymouth County Fairgrounds,” Schnepf said. “The exhibit is hosted by the Le Mars Area Chamber of Commerce Agriculture Committee with assistance from the FFA chapters within Plymouth County.”

The annual exhibit showcases the economic importance of Plymouth County agriculture and uses various “hands-on” interactive displays to make the exhibit educational and enjoyable. Through the “Did You Know ... ?” posters, visitors learn of interesting facts, statistics, and trivia relating to local agriculture.

“This year, he put the focus on the dynamic Plymouth County women who are involved in agriculture,” Schnepf said.

“He left KLEM earlier this year for a position at WNAX Radio in Yankton, South Dakota, and we do miss him, but he continues his passion here on the Plymouth County Fairgrounds with his dedication to Le Mars, the Chamber Ag Committee, the Plymouth County Fair and most especially, the kids of Plymouth County. We are lucky to have his passion, talents and vision. We are looking forward to many more years of him ‘aROUND the fair in the Round BARN,” Schnepf said.

Morrice thanked the Plymouth County Fair Board for the award.

“I am very honored to receive this,” he said, noting he could see others in the crowd more worthy of the honor.

“I’m hopeful everyone appreciates the Round Barn. I think it’s being utilized in the manner as it was always meant to be, to promote agriculture. And yes, I will be back for the best 5 days of summer in the future.”

Later in an interview, Morrice said he wanted to see the barn space return to its agricultural roots for the fair.

“No offense to Bonita Davison, but when I was visiting the fair and saw the Christmas decorations in July, it just didn’t seem like that was what was needed. I felt the fair was an opportunity to put together some type of educational exhibit.

“Even though Plymouth County is deep into the agricultural scene, and we’re heavily dependent upon agriculture, there are still a lot of people in the county and Le Mars that don’t have a first-hand look at agriculture except maybe driving on the road and seeing a combine utilized. Maybe they don’t have that much knowledge of agriculture on the local level.”

He continued when the displays were started nine years ago, Wells Enterprises, Dean Foods (now Kemps) and BoDeans were three fairly major employers in the community.

“But I don’t think many people regard them as an agricultural industry or business,” he said. “None of the three would be able to exist if it wasn’t for agriculture.

Morrice approached the Le Mars Area Chamber of Commerce Ag Committee to find their level of interest in tackling such a project.

People on the committee at that time saw his vision and pitched the idea to the fair board.

“Now the Round Barn is being utilized in a manner it was meant to be. It’s an iconic landmark structure of the fair, and you can hardly say Plymouth County Fair without immediately thinking of the Round Barn,” he said.

Since that first exhibit nine years ago, the Round Barn has displayed an array of different exhibits, all telling the story of agriculture.

The dairy industry focus took place soon after Perry Creek Dairy opened.

“People had heard about the carousel milking parlor and we were able to show a video of the actual milking parlor, and give people an idea of how things have progressed from milking cows by hand to now utilizing robots and the carousel technology,” Morrice noted.

Along with that, the exhibit included a butter sculpture of the Round Barn by the Iowa State Fair’s butter sculptor, which drew the attention of many fairgoers.

“People look forward to coming to the fair and coming through and touring the Round Barn. Just the architecture itself is unique. Now, too, people are familiar with the fact that the Chamber Ag Committee is going to have some type of agriculture education exhibit inside the barn,” he said.

Exhibits through the years have included a live bee hive and the story of how honey is made; a simulated grain auger and elevator system; learning facts about corn and soybeans while playing a game of bean bag toss or corn hole; and even imagining driving a tractor by sitting in the “Cab Lab.”

Agriculture is very dear to Morrice.

“It’s my passion. I grew up on a farm near Battle Creek. I was involved in 4-H myself, so I’ve always had a passion for agriculture.

“I am certainly very honored and again, as I mentioned, not really thinking I am worthy of the recognition, but I’m certainly honored and pleased that the fair board was recognizing my contributions but also the entire Chamber Ag Committee. I lit the fuse and the Ag Committee helped carry it on. Thank you so much,” he said.

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