So… MINNESOTA! State Fair Facts You Never Knew!

1936 – The Royal American Shows carnival midway

(Grandstand in the background!)

One of the oldest fairs in the country, the Minnesota State Fair is THE most popular event in Minnesota! The Minnesota Agricultural Society was founded in 1854 and held its first Territorial Fair in 1855. Beginning in 1859, one year after statehood, it became the Minnesota State Fair! From 1859-1884, the Fair travelled around the state with host cities including Minneapolis, St. Paul, Rochester, Red Wing, Owatonna and Winona. In 1885, what was known as the Ramsey County Poor Farm became the permanent, and current, home of the Great Minnesota Get-Together. And, since 1949, the Fair has been self-supporting with NO government assistance!

Enjoy these random Minnesota State Fair facts and enjoy impressing or stumping your family and friends while chowing down a few Pronto Pups at the Beer Garden!

1) Some history buffs might know this, but in 1901 Teddy Roosevelt actually gave his “Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick” speech while he was serving as Vice President. We’ve also had a lot of other presidents visit the Fair; Presidents Hayes, Kennedy, Coolidge, Eisenhower, Harding, and Taft have all visited the State Fair at one time in their life.

2) The Fair started in 1859 and has only been cancelled 6 times:

1/2. In 1861 and 1862 due to the Civil War and Dakota Indian Conflict
3. In 1893 because of scheduling conflicts with the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago
4. In 1945 due to war-time fuel shortages
5. In 1946 due to a polio epidemic
6. In 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic

3) Music has always been a popular feature throughout the Fair’s history. There are numerous small bandstands featuring all styles of music throughout the grounds every day. The big shows, though, are typically held in the Grandstand. Christina Aguilera has the record for the most tickets ever sold, 22,117 in 2000, the last year of the old Grandstand seating configuration. Alabama holds the record for most performances at the Fair – 19. And, no, The Purple One (aka “Skipper”, “Joey Coco”, or “Alexander Nevermind” – or more commonly known simply as Prince) never performed at the Fair. 

4) The Swine Barn houses the year’s largest boar – the largest one ever was Reggie in 2010 who checked in at a svelte 1,450 pounds. Just a few slices of bacon there!

5) The “All You Can Drink Milk” tradition began in 1955.

6) Fresh French Fries debuted in 1973.

7) The State Fair staple – the Pronto Pup – was introduced in 1947.

8) The always popular Sweet Martha’s Cookie Jar pails arrived in 1985. To the tune of 4,800 calories per pail! And they can produce 3,000,000 cookies per day!

9) The original Hippodrome was used for two years during World War II as a military aircraft factory producing propellers. Following the war, the Hippodrome was completely rebuilt as it was deemed “economically unfit for restoration”. 

10) The current Grandstand was built in 1909 to accommodate the enormous crowds that came to watch harness racing and see the local and world-famous pacer horse Dan Patch race! Dan Patch made his State Fair debut in 1903.

11) In the late 1980s, world famous aerialist Jay Cochran walked on a high-wire stretched between the tops of the 4H Building and the Space Tower. 

12) The oldest amusement at the Fairgrounds is Ye Old Mill which opened in 1915. How many generations of families have kissed on that ride?!

13) In 1965, the 330-foot Space Tower was built in Germany, shipped to Duluth, loaded onto 20 trucks before being assembled in its current location. 

14) The first night-time Grandstand show was in 1899 – an hour of harness racing followed by a massive fireworks show. 

15) The first 12-day State Fair was in 1975. Before that, it ranged from 3-11 days. 

16) Why does school typically start after Labor Day (the last day of the State Fair)  in Minnesota? In 1902, the St. Paul and Minneapolis school boards pushed back the opening day of school to the Monday after the State Fair stating there was “more to be learned in a single day at the fair than in double the time at school or college.”

17) Hamline Church Dining Hall is the oldest food concession on the fairgrounds and began operating in 1897.

18) The Minnesota State Fair’s all-time attendance record was set in 2018 with 2,046,533 visitors. 

19) The first Princess Kay of the Milky Way was crowned in 1954. It takes 6-8 hours to carve her face out of the large block of butter that is displayed every year. 

20) There are actually TWO State Fair mascots – Fairchild and Fairborne. Fairchild has the green-striped jacket and became the official mascot in 1966. His name comes from Henry S. Fairchild who suggested the Ramsey County Poor Farm become the permanent home of the fairgrounds. His nephew, Fairborne, has the blue-striped jacket and joined him in 1983. In a 2016 interview, Fairchild stated he is distantly related on his mother’s side to the UofM’s Goldy Gopher!

For more interesting trivia and to say “hi” to the Your@Home Team in person, we will be at the Great Minnesota Get Together on Labor Day, September 5 from 11:00am-3:00pm at the Minneapolis Area Realtors booth in the Home Improvement Building, sites 48-49. The Home Improvement Building is on Cosgrove Street and very short walk from the main Fair entrance on Snelling Avenue. And at 3:05pm, you’ll find us enjoying our annual visit to O’Gara’s (again, just inside the Snelling Av entrance at the SW corner of Dan Patch and Cosgrove) to enjoy a Reuben, Smithwick’s Ale and Irish music before we start our other traditional journey to find the best Minnesota Craft Beer flights! Comment below and tell us your favorite fair pastime! Enjoy the 2022 Minnesota State Fair!

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