When the summer heat reaches nearer the triple digits then it is county fair time in Minnesota. The smell of fair food flows through the air and the sound of animals and laughter compete to be the loudest sounds at the fair. The Blue Earth County fair has been creating good times for more than a century and a half. In fact, Blue Earth County is home to one of the oldest fairs in Minnesota starting back in 1859. And even though the fair has been in Garden City all those years except for 2 fairs there are some notable changes between the fair of the past and the fair of today.
The first agricultural show was in the fall of 1859 at Minor Porter’s farm. The early settlers of the area got together to show off their talents in agriculture. The first fair was a success and planning for other fairs began. Other cities in Blue Earth County also wanted to bring the fair to their home. In 1861 South Bend was the host to the fair but due to bad weather, the fair was unsuccessful. The Blue Earth County fair was canceled in 1862 and 1863 because of the Dakota Conflict. But after the good times continued and the fair was thriving.
One of the reasons the fair does so well is that it keeps bringing people back year after year. In 1911 George W. Goodall had attended the first fair in Blue Earth County and hadn’t missed one in 50 years. That kind of loyalty continued. Miles Thurston attended every day of every fair for 80 years. When Thurston was a baby his mother would take him to the fair. Thurston reminisced about past fairs and the events such as corn husking contests, baseball games, and horse shows with the impressive breeding stock.
In the early days of the fair main attractions included hose pulling and men pulling, or tug-a-war. Local music artist also shared their talents and provided music for people to dance to. As the automobile began to gain popularity car races also grew in popularity. In 1914 there was an auto race that had famous drivers from different parts of the United States. Famous drivers like Louis Disbrow of New York, who was the Champion Track and Beach Driver of the world and also holder of 14 world’s records, came to compete at the Blue Earth County fair.
This is just a brief look into this historic event. There are more than 150 years of stories to be told. But one thing is for sure. The beautiful grass areas bordered by the Watonwan River and shaded by the Oak and Walnut trees are a sight to behold on their own. And by adding people from all around Blue Earth County competing and sharing a good time it brings the place to a whole other level.
By: BECHS Volunteer