That Chuck Delaney, at age 90, is still running Game Fair, which opens Friday in Ramsey for two three-day weekends, is only surprising if you don't know the life he has lived.
Having been alone now for almost two years since the death of his wife, the famed dog trainer and world champion trapshooter Loral I Delaney, Chuck could have folded Game Fair, or sold it, and spent his time recalling the good old days.
All of which involved Loral I — to whom Chuck happily played second fiddle for more than six decades.
Some years ago, Chuck, Loral I, Bud Grant and I were in South Dakota hunting pheasants with a couple of friends when a local rancher said to Chuck over lunch, "You always bring your wife with you when you hunt?''
The implication was that guns, dogs and birds were for guys only.
"Other way around,'' Chuck said, "I'm lucky she brought me.''
Odd as it might seem, given the male-dominated times into which he was born in 1933, Chuck always has been a women's-rights advocate.
Perhaps he had to be. Because wherever Loral I went in the world, men wanted to be around her. Sometimes it was Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford of the New York Yankees when they came to the Twin Cities in the 1960s to play the Twins.
Another time it might be the actor Charlton Heston. Or Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees.
Or most any of the 1970s-era Vikings, including Wally Hilgenberg, Roy Winston and Mick Tingelhoff.
Loral I drew men to her with her beauty. But she drove them crazy by doing things they couldn't.
Like break 200 straight in trap. Or carve a wilderness scene in a moose antler. Or train a national pointing dog champion. Or teach a golden retriever and a black bear to ride with her on a surfboard.
"Loral I got that bear in Seattle when she was performing at the sport show there, and she carried it around with her in her trailer, with her dogs,'' Chuck said. "She wanted to incorporate it into her dog act, which she did. But she was really proud of training it to ride a surfboard with her and that golden retriever pulled behind a boat.''
Married in 1960, Chuck and Loral I had met at the Chicago Sportshow, where Loral I was performing her dog act, which she debuted at age 5 at the Northwest Sportshow in Minneapolis.
Chuck, meanwhile, was managing the Chicago show, a business he's been in for 66 years, the last 42 of which have been dedicated to Game Fair, held on the 80 acres of Chuck's and Loral I's Armstrong Ranch Kennels.
Unassuming to the point, at times, of being shy, yet confident and assured whether shooting clays, training a dog, riding a horse or drawing down on a buck whitetail with her bow, Loral I grew up in an atmosphere of guns, dogs and game birds, and was most comfortable around people of like interests.
She could be funny, too.
One time I noticed her cowboy boots, which appeared to be made from snakeskin.
"Those are cool,'' I said. "Where'd you get them?''
"I shot 'em,'' she deadpanned.
In 1982, when she and Chuck started Game Fair, patterning it after an annual British event of the same name, they both insisted no alcohol be allowed on the grounds, kids be welcomed, fairgoers should be encouraged to bring their dogs to enter in fun games like dock jumping and speed retrieving and that — most importantly — women attendees be given a chance to learn how to shoot shotguns safely and accurately.
Until the years preceding her death in September 2021, Loral I led Game Fair's women's shooting seminars. Chuck, who with Loral I was part of a four-time husband-and-wife national trapshooting team, helped, too, by ensuring participating women incurred no costs for the instruction.
Subbing for Loral I this year at Game Fair, as she has in recent years, will be Ohioan Nora Ross, a 34-time Amateur Trapshooting Association All-American and the youngest person ever inducted into that group's hall of fame.
Chuck — he is a promoter, after all — said this year's Game Fair will be the biggest ever, adding he hopes last year's dog-attendance record of 4,209 canines is broken.
"The show just keeps growing,'' he said.
Asked why, given that he already has outlived the average American male by 17 years, he doesn't kick back and relax, Chuck said:
"I guess it's because Game Fair is held here, on the grounds where Loral I and I lived together for more than 60 years. And to us, Game Fair always was, and to me it still is, a celebration of the lives we had together, and the way we lived.
"Everything we did was oriented toward our love of the outdoors, as well as the conservation of natural resources and the preservation of our heritage.
"To me, that's a living thing, and I want to keep it going as long as I'm able.''
Game Fair is Friday through Sunday and Aug. 18-20. Hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Adult admission is $15. Seniors 62 and over and veterans, $10. Kids, age 6 to 14, $5, and kids under 6 and active military, free. Fridays are family days, with kids admitted free with a paid adult. More at gamefair.com.