The Minnesota State Fair is an annual event based around community, food, crafts, and agriculture. Close to 1.8 mln people attend the 12-day celebration each and every year, which makes it American’s second-largest state fair. The event is a huge attraction in the state of Minnesota and has even earned the nickname “The Great Minnesota Get-Together”.
Appealing to immigrants
Agricultural societies organised fairs in Minnesota in the early 1850’s. They were intended to showcase the local residents’ handiwork, produce, and livestock. Organisers of the fairs hoped that by displaying proof of a local social life, as well as productive farms, that people would be encouraged to relocate to the area. The first state fair was organised in Minneapolis in 1859. The Minnesota State Agricultural Society, the fair’s governing body, was officially chartered the following year.
There was no regular location for the fair in its early years. From 1860-1884, it was held in Winona, Owatonna, Redwing, Rochester, St. Paul, and Minneapolis. From 1873-1877, a grasshopper plague diminished the displays, not to mention destroyed a great deal of Minnesota crops. When fairs were put on outside of Minnesota, residents of the state put on a rival fair. It was a challenge to put on travelling state fairs and so they failed to attract a decent attendance.
By the time the 1880’s came around, the Minnesota State Agricultural Society decided to look for a stable home for the fair. Mid-way through the decade, Ramsey County generously donated land for the fair from the country poor farm. The next fair was held here, on the new fairgrounds located between Minneapolis and St. Paul, in what would later be known as Falcon Heights. This would be the start of a new era for the fair.
In a bid to attract farmers to the state, the earlier fairs introduced new breeds of crops and livestock. Exhibits showed off the pounds of creamery butter and bushels of soft wheat produced in Minnesota. Farm produce, enormous vegetables, and prized livestock were some of the high points of each fair. Such displays weren’t limited to agricultural products. The 1876 fair included an ore exhibition, with the ore having come from new mines on the city’s Iron Range.
The Minnesota March
The long-standing fair has hosted significant historical events. In 1901, Theodore Roosevelt delivered a fair speech, and racehorse Dan Patch set a road for pacing the mile in 1906. The fair made history in 1927 when John Philip Sousa played “The Minnesota March” for the very first time.
Many traditions are upheld at the fair. For example, the Princess Kay of the Milky Way competition has been sponsored by the Minnesota Dairy Industry since 1954. Firework displays and grandstand shows that take place every night have been a part of the fair since 1899. Food, however, perhaps symbolises the fair more than anything else. Foods on a stick, such as Pronto Pups, are just one example of what gives the fair its authentic character.