The Great Minnesota Get-Together

This week on Thursday begins an event which many people wait for all year.  It’s commonly called the Minnesota State Fair and often referred to as the Great Minnesota Get-Together but I think most people can agree it’s the 12 Best Days of Summer.  Beginning August 21 and going through September 1, you can get all manner of foods on a stick, music concerts and entertainment, exhibits, and more.  Last year the Minnesota State Fair was attended by nearly 1.7 million people.  Each year it seems to grow as one of the largest attended state fairs in the nation!

Entertainment at the 2008 Minnesota State Fair includes more than 100 acts at eight free venues, and a lineup of top stars that includes Toby Keith, the Backstreet Boys, and the Black Crowes.  The Great Minnesota Get-Together also features more than 450 food choices.  Let’s not forget the hundreds of agricultural, educational and commercial exhibits and attractions.

It also has a long and deep history.  After four years of territorial fairs, the first Minnesota State Fair was held in 1859 near what became downtown Minneapolis.  That was just one year after Minnesota was granted statehood, which means watch out for next  year’s State Fair celebration when it celebrates its 150th anniversary!

Anyways, back to the fair.  During the fair's early years, the site of the exposition rotated with stops in Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Rochester, Red Wing, Winona and Owatonna.  The Minnesota State Fair finally found a permanent home at its present location after the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners donated a 210-acre poor farm to the State Agricultural Society, which governed the State Fair at the time.

After setting down its roots, the Minnesota State Fair began to grow. The fairgrounds spread out to 320 acres. Architecturally, it is home for many historically-significant structures including the Arts Center, Progress Center, Grandstand and Coliseum (formerly known as the Hippodrome).

Early fairs were dominated by agricultural exhibits and competitions, reflecting its original purpose of encouraging farming within Minnesota. While agriculture is still the main focus, the spectrum of activities has broadened to include large-scale entertainment features, technological and industrial exhibits, and education and government institutions.

Since its inception, the fair has been held every year with only five exceptions: in 1861 and 1862 due to the Civil War and Dakota Indian Conflict, in 1893 because of scheduling conflicts with the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, in 1945 due to war-time fuel shortages, and in 1946 due to a polio epidemic.

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