Chaska couple honors late son with State Fair bench

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For a Chaska couple, another new addition to the Great Minnesota Get-Together has a special place in their hearts.

"When Big Fat Bacon stand first opened, it was like he died and went to heaven,” said Paul Schlueter about her late son. “He was there like five or six times the first day."

Everyone goes to the Minnesota State Fair for reasons of their own.

"Primarily it’s the food, all of the activities, the people watching, the buildings," said Paul.

But for Paul and Gayle Schlueter, the main attraction is an oasis in the sea of people milling around on machinery hill.

"To begin with, it’s heart wrenching because you walk up and see his name and its real. He's gone. But being here you feel like you are with him,” said Gayle. 

The Schlueters say their son Dan Schlueter was a free spirit who loved the great outdoors, but while he was snowmobiling to work in Savage four years ago, he hit a small tree in Winkel Park near downtown Chaska. He eventually died from his injuries.

"It was the worst day of our lives that can happen to a couple of parents to lose a child. It’s terrible,” said Paul.

But Dan also loved the fair, so his parents bought a bench with his name and picture on it, to pay tribute to him at one of his favorite events.

Not only have they visited it several times, some of Dan’s friends and relatives have stopped by as well to grab a seat, take a picture and remember.

"It means a lot. To know that he has friends that will care about him that much to seek out the bench because we don't want them to know where it is. The fun is trying to find the bench,” Gayle said.

From now on, the Schlueters’ annual trip to the fair will include a moment of rest in the midst of all the crowds and chaos. They take some comfort in providing comfort to others and at the end of the day, it’s hard to beat the view.

"It feels good. It’s something that we'll look forward to every year now, you know?” said Gayle.