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Stearns County Fair Moved Permanently To Sauk Centre – On ‘This Date In Central Minnesota History’

Stearns County Fair in Sauk Centre in 1938 (Stearns History Museum)

SAUK CENTRE – July 3rd, 1903 – Stearns County Fair held at the current fair ground in Sauk Centre for the first time

The Stearns County Fair is held annually on a fairgrounds site in the City of Sauk Centre. Yearly it attracts thousands of people to watch abundant events, eat fair food, enjoy carnival games, and view the exhibit entries.

October 10th, 1871 marks the inception of the Stearns County Fair. The fairgrounds were originally located in St. Cloud. Rain and snow gave a discouraging start to the 140 year old tradition, but there were good displays and a satisfactory attendance. The next year was also plagued with disagreeable weather yet the fair managed to attract the people of Stearns County to participate in the celebrations.

The fair then moved to Sauk Centre and remained there for four additional years. However, the weather continued to be a nuisance. Those four years experienced bad weather and poor attendance. Conditions being unfavorable for a continuance of the county fairs, they were discontinued for several years.

In 1885, sufficient money funds were furnished by St. Cloud business men for the erection of new buildings. The fair held that year was a success. Annual fairs were held, but by 1891 the fair association was in poor financial conditions. The holding of fairs was abandoned until 1903 when a new association was organized, a 28 acre tract of land was purchased in Sauk Centre and preparations were made. The new fair grounds and race track were formally opened July 3, 1903.

The program of the first day included a ball game for a purse of $50, trotting race with a prize of $300, farmer’s race for $50, and a half mile running race also for $50. From a small beginning, attendance grew. One of the largest records was in 1957. 19,500 people attended the fair.

Cattle at the 1935 Stearns County Fair in Sauk Centre

The property now belonging to the District Fairs Association includes twenty-eight acres of ground fenced in, a half-mile racing track, racing barns, cattle sheds, stock barn, poultry building, art building, agricultural building, school building, grand stand and band stand.

The enterprising citizens of Stearns County have shown great public spirit and much liberality in making the fair the success it has come to be.

Thanks to Stearns History Museum Intern Brittany Bokovoy for her help with our series, This Date In Central Minnesota History on WJON.

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