Only 11 horses have won the elusive Triple Crown (Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes) in the history of horse racing. The grueling schedule of three races in 5 weeks at longer distances than most have run previously in their careers is probably the most difficult task any horse will face in his racing career. If you would award the Triple Crown to a person for coming from behind and racing to success, you would have to consider Curt Sampson of Hector, who by the way bought Canterbury Park in Shakopee on March 11, 1994 when it was closed. Sampson was inducted into the Minnesota Business Hall of Fame in July of this year. He was among five persons being recognized for their business success in the state of Minnesota. Sampson was born July 6, 1933 to Selmer and Sophie Sampson. Curt was the lucky number seven of 10 children from a family where the mother eventually became the breadwinner by opening a greenhouse and flower shop in Hector. Sampson helped his parents develop a greenhouse after his father, a state employee, was forced to take early retirement. At the age of 10, Curt had a paper route and ran a trap line to make a few dollars. His wife, Marian said when he was 12 years old he did odd jobs such as mowing lawns so he had money to buy clothes. “He was lucky he could buy a pair of jeans,” she said. Sampson graduated from Hector High School in 1951, a class of 30 students. “You could tell he was brilliant,” said classmate Howard (Shorty) Olson. “He just stood out over the rest of us,” Olson said. Sampson was the quarterback for the last 6-man football squad for Hector, which went undefeated at 8-0 in 1947-1949 and 6-2 in 1950, and were champions of the 212 Conference three of the four years. But his favorite sport was baseball in which he played town team ball for the Hector Flyers, Buffalo Lake and the Fairfax Cardinals. He enjoys being with the Minnesota Twins in Florida during spring training and organizing a celebrity game at Fairfax with retired Twins players. The most recent game at Fairfax was on June 11, and Twins pitcher Bert Blyleven attended to celebrate Sampson’s 79th birthday. Following high school he enrolled at the University of Minnesota and worked at various jobs to pay for his education. During his last two years, he managed a cooperative restaurant gaining valuable small business experience while majoring in Accounting and Business Administration. Marian (Walter) Sampson lived in Buffalo Lake and met Curt on a double date. They married in the fall of 1954 and raised four children — Randy, Paul, Russ and Suzie. They feel blessed with 11 grandchildren and one great-grandson. Sampson came back to Hector and started his 50-year telecom career with the Hector Telephone Company in September of 1955 and helped it grow to become a successful public company. He founded Communication Systems, Inc. (CSI) — ironically it has his initials — in 1970 with financial support from Hector investors who each have received over $5,000,000 from their original $25,000 investment. Sampson is the chairman and director of CSI that has four subsidiaries with communications manufacturing operations in the U.S., Great Britain, Costa Rica and China. In 1994, Sampson bought Canterbury Park, which had closed in December, 1992, from Irwin Jacobs. “I purchased it because I enjoy raising and breeding race horses and wanted to see the race track continue and be successful,” Sampson said. Curt’s son, Randy, is president of Canterbury Park, and the new management has resumed live racing and simulcasting of other tracks around the country. It has hosted snowmobile races, trade shows, two successful craft shows each year, and concerts. Canterbury Park and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) announced on June 4 they signed a 10-year cooperative marketing agreement. This increases purses for live races through a purse enhancement program funded by the SMSC, a commitment totaling approximately $75 million over the 10 years. “This agreement is great news for racing fans, horsemen and racing park employees,” Sampson said. In 1978, Sampson was named the Minnesota Small Business Person of the Year, and in 1996 received the Outstanding Achievement Award from the University of Minnesota Regents. He has served on numerous boards and advisory committees, including the SBA, Carlson School, Hands, Inc., banks, small business ventures, school and church boards, Kiwanis, Chamber of Commerce, and more. His first love is building businesses, such as CSI, Hector Communications Corp., and Canterbury Park, employing over 2,000 employees in Hector, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Wales UK, and numerous other points through Minnesota, across the United States, and abroad. Even though he considers himself semi-retired, Sampson is active in his business ventures and helping the Hector community. He donated $100,000 to rebuild the Hector athletic field, which the school renamed “Sampson Family Field” to honor his contribution. When the outdoor swimming pool was having trouble passing state inspections, his family donated another $100,000 for repairs and updating so the pool could continue operating. “The money was a godsend,” said Duane Hauer who has managed the pool the last 35 years. “The swimming pool would have to close if we didn’t get help from the Sampson family and others from the community,” he said. CSI has donated use of Sampson’s first telecom building on Main Street to the Hector History Center. Sampson has provided property for a dentist to build a new building, to continue to help businesses succeed in Hector, property for Sampson Additions in east Hector and for Prairie View apartments, assisted living and Alzheimer’s units. Sampson’s not looking at the finish line, but is well ahead of the pack in the long race to helping his family, community and business ventures. He left the gate with a goal of “Think big … but be a good small business first.” Curtis Sampson is a sure bet to be a Triple Crown winner.
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