Minnesota State Fair: St. Paul, MN

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First held in 1854, Minnesota’s State Fair preceded statehood by four years. The Fair’s governing body, the Minnesota Agricultural Society, is elected by delegates from each of the state’s county fair boards and occupies a special place in Minnesota State Law with the ability to govern its fairgrounds independently of local political subdivisions. It has occupied its current 322-acre site near St. Paul since 1885. The State Fair has its own police force, some of whom work for the Society year-round. Because of its curious relationship with the state government, the fair does in fact pay taxes on ticket sales and is managed by a corporate structure with a CEO appointed by the elected Agricultural Society.

It’s hard to overstate the significance of the Fair to the State of Minnesota. The fair has consistently grown since 1854 and has only been canceled six times—most recently for the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020. The previous year the event had attracted over 200,000 visitors on its busiest days, and approximately two million visitors over the course of the twelve-day event. Each year the State Fair makes hundreds of millions in sales and admission, raising significant tax revenue and attracting visitors from across the United States.

The fair’s storied history is preserved by a non-profit entity, the Minnesota State Fair Foundation, which contributes to the upkeep of the fairgrounds. Some of the oldest structures on the site include a 1911 bungalow and a 1915 ride, fittingly named Ye Old Mill. It was on these hollowed grounds that in 1901 Vice-President Teddy Roosevelt uttered his famous quote, “speak softly carry a big stick.” It is unclear whether said stick held a deep-fried pork chop.

Photographer:

Peter Ormand