Minnesota State Fair

Yes, I know, the Minnesota State Fair is a ways off yet, but…I just couldn’t resist passing along some state fair history that you might  not be aware of at this time.

Over a million people enjoyed Minnesota’s Great Get-together in each of the past few years and that crowd of “fun-lovers” just seems to get bigger every year.

Well, here are some fun facts that you may want to use on your friends to “show off” your historical prowess about this major midwest attraction…

#1. The Minnesota State Fair is the largest 12-day fair in North America.

#2. The fair has been here on these grounds since 1885. The very first state
fair was in 1959. It is the 140th state fair since 5 were cancelled.

#History of the state fair
 

After four years of territorial fairs, the first Minnesota State Fair was held in 1859, the year after Minnesota was granted statehood, near what became downtown Minneapolis.

During the fair¹s early years, the site of the exposition changed annually with stops in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Rochester, Red Wing, Winona and Owatonna. In the 1870s and early 1880s, civic groups from both St. Paul and Minneapolis worked relentlessly to provide a permanent home for the fair in their respective cities. The Minnesota State Fair finally found a permanent home at its present location, midway between the Twin Cities when the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners donated their 210-acre poor farm to the State Agricultural Society, the governing body of the State Fair. Secure in its new surroundings, the Minnesota State Fair began to grow. Physically, the fairgrounds blossomed to 320 acres. Architecturally, it is home for many historically-significant structures including the Arts Center, Progress Center, Grandstand and Coliseum (formerly known as the Hippodrome).

An important change in the State Fair over the years has been in the attractions offered to fair visitors. The character of early fairs was dominated by agricultural exhibits and competitions, reflecting its original purpose of encouraging farming in the state. While agriculture is still the primary focus, the scope of activities has broadened to include large-scale entertainment features, technological and industrial exhibits and scores of education and government institutions.

Since its inception, the fair has been held every year with only five exceptions in 1861 and 1862 due to the Civil War and Dakota Indian Conflict, in 1893 because of scheduling conflicts with the World¹s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, in 1945 due to war-time fuel shortages and in 1946 due to a polio epidemic.

The State Fair is governed by the Minnesota State Agricultural Society (a
financially self-sufficient quasi-state agency charged exclusively with operating the fair and maintaining the fairgrounds. The society is made up of delegates from the state¹s county fairs and various agri-business groups. Every January, these delegates meet to conduct formal society business, including the election of officers to fill alternating terms on the 10-member State Fair board of managers. Board members set policy for the administration of the fair, serve on committees dealing with specifics of the fair¹s operation and provide a liaison between the board and the various State Fair departments. The State Fair board is comprised of one
representative from each of the society¹s nine regional districts plus a president, who serves at-large.

The State Fair is financially self-supporting and receives no local, state or federal aid. Income from outside gate admissions, concession and exhibit space rentals, paid entertainment and off-season rentals is used to meet year-round operating expenses, make capital improvements, maintain the State Fairgrounds and finance the coming year¹s exposition.

Firsts
€ Territorial Agricultural Society founded (governing body of the fair) 1854
€ First territorial fair 1855
€ Minnesota admitted to the Union; Territorial Society becomes State Agricultural Society 1858
€ First State Fair 1859
€ First year at present fairgrounds 1885
€ First evening Grandstand show: ³Burning of Manilla² fireworks presentation 1899
€ First appearance of race horse Dan Patch 1903
€ First Midway 1904
€ First year of auto races 1907
€ First airplane flight in Minnesota was held at the fairgrounds 1910
€ First Thrill Day 1933
€ First year ³everyone pays² gate 1933
€ First state-wide Princess Kay of the Milky Way contest 1954
€ First year attendance topped 1 million 1955
€ First year of ³big name² evening Grandstand entertainment 1962
€ First 12-day fair 1975
€ First State Fair Llama Show 1988
€ First year of State Fair independently operated Mighty Midway and Kidway 1995

Lasts
€ Last year the fair started on the Saturday before Labor Day 1938
€ Last year of horse races 1949
€ Last legislative appropriation 1949
€ Last year of racing at the Grandstand 2002

Momentous Occasions
€ A mock battle brought 80,000 spactators to the Grandstand on Grand Army Day 1887
€ Teddy Roosevelt delivered his famous ³big stick² speech at the fair 1901
(Reenactment in 2001)
€ Legendary pacer horse, Dan Patch, set the world record for one-mile at the Grandstand; the record stood for more than 30 years 1906
€ John Phillip Souza composes the ³Minnesota March² and performs it at the fair 1927
€ F. Scott Fitzgerald waxes poetic about the fair in his book A Night at the Fair 1928
€ More than 73,000 fans gathered at the Grandstand to watch the 10-mile U.S. Championship dirt-car race 1936
€ Commonwealth Avenue changed to Dan Patch Avenue 1995
€ All-time Labor Day record attendance of 144,432 1999
€ All-time cumulative record attendance of 1,762,976 2001

Evolution of Grandstand Shows
€ Present Grandstand was built to accommodate the huge crowds attracted to harness racing by world-famous pacer Dan Patch. 1909
€ John Phillip Sousa was the fair¹s first ³name²entertainer. He performed in the Plaza Park outside the Grandstand. 1927
€ The old Grandstand fireworks shows evolved into the State Fair Revue, starring Radio City Music Hall dancers, minor Hollywood starlets, music and a smashing fireworks finale. 1935
€ State Fair Revue promised 57 ³headline² acts, but the show was stolen on opening night by Edgar Bergen and his wooden sidekick, Charlie McCarthy. 1941
€ Ricky Nelson starred in Children¹s Day shows shortly after ³I¹m Walking,² his first release, made him a teen heartthrob. 1957
€ First ³big-name² night shows were staged, starring Dennis Day, Jane Russell, and Jimmie Dean. 1962
€ New Plaza seating area and exit and entrance ramps built in place of the bleachers that were razed in 2002 2003

General
€ Arts Center and Progress Center built 1907
€ Grandstand built 1909
€ Ye Old Mill constructed 1913
€ Wooden-domed Agriculture building burned down 1944
€ Pioneer Woman statue erected 1958
€ Skyride built 1964
€ Fairchild debuted as State Fair Mascot 1964
€ Space Tower built 1965
€ Heritage Square opens 1975
€ Hippodrome renamed Coliseum 1975
€ Fine arts competition moved to new home in Arts Center 1980
€ Fairborne debuted as second State Fair mascot 1983
€ International Bazaar opens 1984
€ Visitors Plaza constructed 1991
€ Pet Center opened 1991
€ Progress Center¹s renovation completed 1994
€ Carousel Park constructed 1995
€ New Care & Assistance Center constructed 1998
€ New Skyglider constructed 2001
€ Miracle of Birth Center added to the Children¹s Barnyard 2001
€ Adopt-A-Garden-Program began 2001
€ Minnesota State Fair Foundation established 2001
€ Food Building renovation 2002
€ Grandstand bleachers razed and renovation begins 2002
€ Little Farm Hands at the Fair takes over Agri-land 2003

Curiosities
€ Battle Reenactments of ³Minnesota at Gettysburg among others 1887, 1888, 1898, 1899
€ St. Paul Growers Association build a model of the new State Capitol out of onions 1906
€ Baby Contest pitted city babies vs. country babies and Minneapolis babies vs. St. Paul babies 1915
€ 50¢ All-You-Can-Eat buffet, served on a conveyor belt and introduced as the future of dining 1920
€ Staged locomotive collisions in Grandstand 1920 & 1921 1933 & 1934
€ Vice President Coolidge heckled into shortening his speech to make way for the auto races 1922
€ Princess Kay of the Milky Way, Mary Ann Titrud, wore royal robes made from butter labels 1965
€ Jay Cochran walked a tight rope from the top of the 4-H building to the top of the Space Tower 1986, 1987, 1989

No Fair
€ Civil War 1861
€ Civil War, Dakota Indian Conflict 1862
€ World¹s Columbian Exposition, Chicago 1893
€ World War II fuel rationing 1945
€ Polio epidemic 1946

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About little joe

Born on the Midwest Plains...and live the same way. Enjoyed a small town upbringing and a big city career. Value small town ethics and the big city opportunity. Write from the heart while wearing a smile. and enjoy all that's around me
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