Minnesota State Fair History

Events, Minnesota, Summer

Every year Minnesotans collectively look forward to the summer-ending bash that is the Minnesota State Fair. This year, we found ourselves wondering about some of the history of the country’s best state fair. With all the tasty food, engaging entertainment, and fascinating exhibits, there must be some pretty interesting history there, right? Below, test your knowledge and then read on to find out the answers as we break down the history of some of the fair’s most iconic aspects.

1) The first Minnesota State Fair was held in which year?

  1. 1860
  2. 1858
  3. 1854
  4. 1859

2) The giant slide at the fair is how many feet tall and how many feet long?

  1. 60, 200
  2. 50, 170
  3. 50, 150
  4. 60, 180

3) About how many concessions operate during the fair?

  1. 425
  2. 300
  3. 350
  4. 400

4) The first wooden grandstand was built in 1885, but what year did today’s grandstand open?

  1. 1909
  2. 1901
  3. 1922
  4. 1913

5) How many years has the CHS Miracle of Birth Center been at its current location?

  1. 17
  2. 20
  3. 13
  4. 24

1) The answer is D—1859.

Historic MN State Fair

Minnesota held its first Territorial Fair in 1854 and first state fair in 1859, the year after official statehood. Since then there have only been five years the fair has not been held, due to the Civil War in 1861, the Dakota Indian Conflict in 1862, conflicts with the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, fuel shortages caused by war in 1945, and the polio epidemic in 1946. That’s a lot of years of Minnesota fun!

2) The answer is B—50, 170

minnesota state fair giant slide

Credit: Minnesota State Fair

The giant slide was built in 1968 and cost 25 cents to ride that year. Since then, it has become a staple in many a fair-goers yearly visit. It’s one of the most recognizable, but certainly not the only ride to be found at the fair. The Skyride was built just four years earlier in 1964 and takes riders on a 70-foot high trip across the fairgrounds. The oldest entertainment at the fair is Ye Old Mill, a tunneled boat ride, which has been operational since 1915! Also be sure to visit the Mighty Midway and Kidway for excitement for all ages, the Adventure Park for the thrill-seekers of your group, and many other rides and attractions, such as the Great Big Wheel, Monty’s Traveling Reptile Show, the Giant Sing-Along, and more!

3) The answer is B—300

minnesota state fair food corn cob

Credit: Minnesota State Fair

According to the fair’s website, about 300 concessions serve about 500 different foods each year! Minnesota’s fair is of course infamous for its interesting food-on-a-stick and deep-fried options—if you haven’t tried a deep-fried candy bar, we’re here to tell you you’re missing out! You’ll also find more traditional offerings such as cheese curds, Pronto Pups (which debuted in 1947), and cotton candy. You can’t go wrong with perennial favorites like a bucket of Sweet Martha’s cookies, a favorite since 1979 (up to 3 million cookies are produced each day) paired with milk from the nearby all-you-can-drink milk booth. This booth serves about 26,000 gallons of milk each year and the cost was just 10 cents when it opened in 1955. Roasted corn on the cob has also been a staple since 1985. Fair-goers consume around 200,000 cobs of corn and 400 pounds of butter from this stand each year. Wash everything down with a beer flight from the Agriculture/Horticulture Building or try one of these beverages new to the scene this year. There are certainly new foods to try as well. We’re especially looking forward to the Breakfast Potato Skins, Fried Tacos On a Stick, and Peaches n Cream Nachos! Use the State Fair’s Food Finder to find the foods you’re most excited for this year.

4) The answer is A—1909

Minnesota State Fair Grandstand

Credit: Minnesota State Fair

Today’s grandstand is in its third iteration after two previous wooden structures built in 1885 and 1892. Many stars have graced its stage throughout the years including KISS, the Backstreet Boys, Alabama (19 times!), Tim McGraw, and Bob Dylan. This year’s lineup promises to be just as exciting with concerts by Hootie & the Blowfish, Trace Adkins & Clint Black, Weird Al, and more! There are also plenty of free options for entertainment throughout the 12 days of the fair. The Leinie Lodge Bandshell offers concerts by popular acts such as the Lonestar and Dessa, while the Schell’s Stage offers indie and folk acts like Nooky Jones and Early Eyes. If none of these pique your interest, perhaps you’ll be interested in the All-Star Stunt Dogs Splash, The Minnesota State Fiddle Contest, MNHS presents History On-a-Schtick, the Timberworks Lumberjack Show, Native Pride Dancers, or Tonic Sol-fa. Phew! And that’s just a small sample! View the schedule of free shows to help plan your visit. Whatever you chose, you’re sure to be entertained!

5. The answer is C—13.

minnesota state fair miracle of birth

Credit: Minnesota State Fair

The CHS Miracle of Birth Center opened in 2001 as an addition to the Children’s Barnyard and moved to its current location 13 years ago in 2006. Over the 12 days of the fair, almost 200 animals, including calves, lambs, goats, and piglets, are born. Stop by to learn about the birthing process and see the newborns. And if you’re lucky, you might get to see a live birth! The Christensen Farms Stage, located just outside, is home to family-friendly shows, including the Thank a Farmer Magic Show and interactive games. Once you’ve seen the newborn animals, there is still much more animal and agricultural fun to be had! Get “The Dirt” on agricultural and horticultural trends, let kids get hands-on at the Kemps Little Farm Hands exhibit, visit the Moo, Baa, & Oink Booths, or simply walk the aisles and enjoy all of the animals the fair has to offer! See the full animal schedule here.

That’s it: you’re now a Minnesota State Fair history expert and ready for your visit! Get prepared by checking out the discount days and other ways to save! If you’d like to view some of the fair’s grand history during your visit, take the Minnesota State Fair History Walking Tour by downloading the brochure or picking it up at the Minnesota Historical Society Booth. End your long day of food and entertainment by staying at one of Roseville’s comfortable hotels. (View our State Fair hotel packages here.) Just minutes away, it’s the perfect end to your day at the Great Minnesota Get-Together!