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Minnesota State Fair: Origins and Traditions

The Minnesota State Fair is a yearly celebration of agriculture, crafts, food, and community. In the twenty-first century, nearly 1.8 million people attend the twelve-day event every year, making it the second-largest state fair in the nation. The gathering is a Minnesota tradition that has more than earned its nickname, "The Great Minnesota Get-Together."

photograph shows Peterson in front of log house, with newer house in background

Andrew Peterson, his first log house 1856

Shows Andrew Peterson standing by the log cabin he first lived in on the farm. In the background, the later farmhouse that still stands in the 21st century is visible. Waconia, Minnesota.

portrait photograph of Elsa Peterson

Elsa Peterson

Elsa Peterson, 1880s. Oleson Portrait Studio, Minneapolis.

portrait photograph of Peterson

Andrew Peterson

Andrew Peterson, 1880s. Oleson Portrait Studio, Minneapolis.

Farmers gathered for group photograph in Kerkhoven, Minnesota.

Farmers Institute, Kerkhoven

Farmers' Institute, Kerkhoven, Minnesota, in Swift County, 1913.

Black and white photograph of Oren C. Gregg, c.1905.

Oren Cornelius Gregg of Lynd. Superintendent of the Farmers Institute and Lyon County Auditor for 10 years.

Oren C. Gregg, superintendent of the Farmers' Institute, and Lyon County auditor for ten years, c.1905. Photograph by James A. Brush.

Crowd gathering outside for Farmers' Institute meeting in Badger, Minnesota.

Farmers Institute at Badger, Minnesota.

Farmers' Institute at Badger, Minnesota, in Roseau County, June 9, 1904.

Farmers' Institutes, 1880s–1920s

In the 1880s, Minnesota farmers saw the need for education but resisted "book farming," or learning how to farm by reading instructional text. Farmers' institutes, lecture series that traveled to rural communities and taught practical farming skills, were popular alternatives in the 1880s through the 1920s.

photograph of several individuals standing in front of a field of young trees

Alvin C. Rose "tree claim," Deuel County, South Dakota.

Estelline, Dakota Territory. Members of the Andrew F. Rose family gatherered on the Alvin C. Rose farm, c.1880s.

photograph depicting a road through a grove of trees

A good tree claim in Lyon County

A good tree claim in Lyon County, c.1900.

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