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State Fair: The Great Minnesota Get-Together: Overview

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Minnesota State Fair: An Illustrated History, by Kathryn Strand Koutsky and Linda Koutsky in collaboration with Minnesota State Fair.
Minneapolis, MN: Coffee House Press, 2007.

MNHS call number: FOLIO S555.M666 K68 2007

Blue Ribbon: A Social and Pictorial History of the Minnesota State Fair, by Karal Marling.
Saint Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1990.
MNHS call number: FOLIO S555. M6662 S76 1990, also available for purchase.

State Fair: The Great Minnesota Get-Together Photographs, by Susan Miller; foreword by Lorna Landvik.
Saint Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2008.
MNHS call number: S555.M666 M55 2008

Minnesota State Fair Annual Program Collection, 1947-1984.
Programs giving a comprehensive overview of the fair, including lists of daily events, Grandstand performances, and new items at the fair that year.
MNHS call number: S555.M6 A24



The Minnesota State Fair, affectionately referred to as “The Great Minnesota Get-Together,” is the second largest state fair in the country with attendance totals over 1.7 million in each year between 2011 and 2013. Several Territorial Fairs were held prior to Minnesota’s admission to the statehood in May of 1858, but the first official State Fair wasn’t held until 1859 due to residual economic trouble from the Panic of 1857. Since 1859 the Fair has been held every year with only six exceptions:

  • In 1861 due to the Civil War
  • In 1862 due to the Civil and US-Dakota Wars
  • In 1893 because of the Chicago World’s Fair
  • In 1945 due to World War II
  • In 1946 due to the Polio epidemic
  • In 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic

The first official State Fair was held in 1859 in Minneapolis by what is now Fifth Street and Marquette Avenue. It was by no means a great success, with bad weather and a small number of displays causing low attendance. The second Fair, held in 1860 at Fort Snelling, was much more successful. In 1885, after a long struggle between the cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, the final location of the Fair in what is now Falcon Heights was decided upon.

Early Fairs were focused on agriculture, with the big draws coming from displays of new farm technology and prize-winning animals. As the State Fair has evolved the main focus has remained on agriculture and industry, but has also grown to encompass the fields of education, art, entertainment, technology, politics, and more. Today the Minnesota State Fair can be seen as representative of life in Minnesota, with the goal of showcasing the best of the best Minnesota has to offer.

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Maia LeClair 

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