Looking back: History of the Freeborn County Fair

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Looking back by Linda Evenson


The Freeborn County Fair has experienced a long, rich history. The current location on Bridge Avenue was purchased in 1903 as a permanent site for the fairgrounds. In preparation for the 1903 fair, two buildings were erected, and fencing around the race track was completed. Heavy rains for two weeks prior to opening caused the cancellation of the fair. The Sept. 16, 1903, issue of the Freeborn County Standard reported, “County fair … is called off. No fair this year … But never mind, next year is coming and then splendidly we’ll do it.”

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In 1912 the Floral Hall was expanded to a 50-by-150-foot building. Items and exhibits featured at the hall were apples, cooking, canned fruits, vegetables, rural school display, art department, dairy, honey and city school work.

Constructed as a W.P.A. project, the new grandstand was dedicated on opening day of the 1940 fair. Gov. Harold E. Stassen spoke at the ceremony. It was a record-breaking day with 30,000 in attendance. The five-day fair featured Entry Day and Governor’s Day; Albert Lea Day and Auto Race Day; Farmers’ Day, Hartland-New Richland and Horse Racing Day; Kids’ Day, Alden-Freeborn Day; and Thrill Day, Radio Day and Emmons-Kiester Day.

The Freeborn County Fair was canceled due to a polio epidemic in 1946. The fair met a similar fate this year.