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Carver County Fair, 1868–present

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Carver County Fairgrounds, 1941

An aerial photo of the Carver County Fairgrounds in Waconia, c.1941. The image shows the roadways and buildings on the grounds.

The Carver County Fair has a long and rich history, dating back to 1868. On July 20, the Carver County Agricultural Society formed in Chaska. Later that year, on October 10, this group held the first Carver County fair in Chaska, to display their crops and animals. An elected Board of Directors planned the fair. Despite later battles over location, the fair has been held almost every year since.

In 1868, after the first fair was held, the fair Board of Directors decided to move the fair to Carver, where it stayed until 1882. While in Carver, the first two-day event was held in 1871. The fair returned to Chaska from 1883-1886. Finally, wanting to become the fair's permanent home, the City of Carver offered the fair board a hall, sheds, a half-mile race track and one hundred dollars each year for five years if they chose Carver as the fair site. Board members at the April 4, 1887 meeting agreed. Between 1887 and the late 1930s, this now three-day event called the City of Carver home.

In 1911, the City of Waconia decided to start their own fair. They wanted to use the name "Carver County Agricultural Society", but that name already belonged to the Carver organization. Instead, they became the "Farmer's Cooperative Agricultural Society." Originally held on the southwest shore of Lake Waconia, additional land was added to the original Waconia fairgrounds in 1914. The fair moved to its current home when the fair board bought land about three blocks south. This property was purchased in 1938 and 1973, and buildings from the original grounds were moved to the new site. The first fair held on the new site was in 1939.

Waconia's new fair started an almost thirty year battle over which was the true and best "county fair." In 1911, the Waconia fair group applied to the state to get their share of the subsidy money provided to all county fairs. They were denied by the State because they were not incorporated. The fair board suffered a nearly three-hundred-dollar loss that year. They incorporated as the Waconia Fair Association in May 1914. Following this, the State divided the subsidy funds between the two cities.

With both cities now recognized as the "Carver County Fair", competition grew strong. Each tried to outdo the other by advertising the biggest and best fair. One ad from the early days of competition was in a September 13, 1912 Norwood Times. It has Carver announcing to county residents that they ought to know that Carver is the "original" fair.

Competition continued until the late 1930s, when Carver tired of the battle and gave in. The Carver fair generously gave the Waconia fair two buildings, Ozzie's and the Lion's cheese curd stand, which are still in use in the twenty-first century. The only building still standing from the 1911 Waconia fair site is the French fry stand. On April 18, 1953, the Waconia fair's "Farmer's Cooperative Agricultural Society" incorporated as the "Carver County Agricultural Society."

Other historic buildings on the fairgrounds include the stone entryway and agricultural building, which were built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) during the Depression of the 1930s. County fairs are often affected by the medical, environmental or financial concerns of the times, and the help of the WPA is a major example of this. Another happened during the 1940s, when a polio epidemic was causing a scare across the country. In 1946, the fair decided not to allow anyone under the age of fifteen to enter the fair. Three days later, August 14, 1946, the city of Waconia passed a resolution cancelling the fair completely for that year.

Fairs change over time as well. The main road on the fairgrounds was once called "Amusement Lane." It, along with other roads on the fairgrounds, was curved to go around the original grandstand location. When the new grandstand location was built in 1987, the original grandstand was burned down by the fire department in exchange for a case of beer, and for extra firefighting practice. There have been other changes to the grounds as well. A historic log granary from a Camden farm was added to the fair in 2007, and a new fair office was built in 2012.

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"A Bit of History Regarding County Fair." Weekly Valley Herald, September 16, 1920.

Albrecht, Jan. "In the Beginning." Waconia Patriot, August 12, 1982.

Articles of Incorporation, Waconia Fair Association, 1914.
Carver County Agricultural society Collection, Carver county Historical Society, Waconia
Description: The Articles of Incorporation for the Waconia Fair Association, 1914, allowing the Waconia Fair to receive subsidy funding for the fair.

Articles of Incorporation, Carver County Agricultural Society, 1953.
Carver County Agricultural society Collection, Carver county Historical Society, Waconia
Description: Articles of Incorporation for the Carver County Agricultural Society, when the Carver and Waconia Fair became one fair.

"Backward, Turn Backward, Oh! Time in Your Flight: An Historical Narrative of the Carver County Agricultural Society." Weekly Valley Herald, September 28, 1922.

Barac, LaVonne. "Fair Only 71 Years Old Despite 1868 Birth." Waconia Patriot, August 5, 1982.

Barac, LaVonne. "Fair: Reflections Note Move to Waconia in 1930s." Waconia Patriot, August 12, 1982.

"Both Sides of the County Fair Case." Norwood Times, September 20, 1912.

"Carver Fair Society Refutes Charges." Norwood Times, September 27, 1912.

"County Fairs Reimbursed." Weekly Valley Herald, January 13, 1927.

"County's Fair at Waconia Opens at New Spot Today." Weekly Valley Herald, August 17, 1939.

"Litigation Between Carver and Waconia Settled." Young America Eagle, January 10, 1913.

"Notice: Town or Village Offering Highest Bids to Have County Fair." Weekly Valley Herald, January 13, 1882.

Petersen-Biorn, Wendy. "Commentary: Peaceniks, Rivalries and Crooked Roads." Chaska Herald, July 31, 2011.

Resolution, Carver County Agricultural Society, 1946.
Carver County Agricultural society Collection, Carver county Historical Society, Waconia
Description: A resolution cancelling the 1946 Fair due to the polio epidemic.

Secretarial Minutes (meeting notes), Carver County Agricultural Society, 1953.
Carver County Agricultural society Collection, Carver county Historical Society, Waconia
Description: Meeting minutes from the Carver County Agricultural Society about fair improvements, plans, etc., spanning up to the 1990's. This include discussion of expelling the Peace Protestors in 1966, possible banning them in the future, and things like setting an age limit at the 1946 fair due to the polio scare.

"The Early Years, Today, and the Future of the County Fair." Waconia Patriot, September 2, 1976.

"Waconia Must Stand Loss- House Committee Does Not Uphold the Promise of Secretary of State." Weekly Valley Herald, February 2, 1913.

Weber, Mark. "History Shows County Fair is 111 Years Old." Norwood Times, August 3, 1978.

"You Ought to Know that the Original Carver County Fair." Norwood Times, September 13, 1912.

Related Images

Carver County Fairgrounds, 1941
Carver County Fairgrounds, 1941
Carver County Fair Entrance, 1912
Carver County Fair Entrance, 1912
Carver County Fair Entrance, 1913
Carver County Fair Entrance, 1913
Carver County Fairgrounds
Carver County Fairgrounds
Front gate, Carver County Fairgrounds
Front gate, Carver County Fairgrounds

Turning Point

The start of the Waconia fair in 1911 begins an almost thirty-year battle with the city of Carver over who holds the "true", as well as biggest and best, county fair until Carver cedes defeat in the late 1930s.

Chronology

July 20, 1868

The Carver County Agricultural Society is established in Chaska.

October 10, 1868

The first Carver County Fair is held in Chaska.

Late 1868

The Carver County Agricultural Society decides to hold the Carver County Fair in Carver.

1869-1882

The Carver County Fair is held in the city of Carver.

1871

The first two-day fair is held.

1883-1886

The Carver County Fair is moved back to the city of Chaska.

April 4, 1887

The fair board members agree to the city of Carver's offer of a hall, sheds, a half-mile race track and one hundred dollars a year for five years to have the Carver County Fair remain permanently in Carver. The event is now three days long.

1911

The city of Waconia makes the decision to start their own fair, beginning an almost thirty year battle for who held the biggest and best fair.

May 1914

The Waconia fair incorporates as the Waconia Fair Association. Both county fairs receive state subsidy funding for the first time.

Late 1930s

Carver cedes defeat and closes its fair. Two buildings, Ozzy's and the Lion's cheese curd stand are given to the Waconia fair for their use.

1938

The Waconia Fair Association purchases new land about three blocks south of the original fair site.

1939

Waconia holds its county fair at its new location for the first time.

April 18, 1953

The Waconia Fair Association incorporates as the Carver County Agricultural Society.

1973

The Waconia Fair Association purchases additional land to enlarge the fairgrounds.

1987

A new grandstand is built and the original grandstand is burned down by the Waconia Fire Department.