Rootprints - August 2021
By Marci Strack, SLCHS Marketing & Education Coordinator
To view the entire digital newsletter issued on August 12, 2021, click on the PDF link below to download a copy.
St. Louis County is home to more than 200,000 individuals and according to the U.S. Census Bureau, our county covers 6,860 square miles (17,800 km2), so it is no wonder that we hold 3 county fairs! Covering the North, the St. Louis County Fair held in Chisholm, Minnesota, is the longest-running fair in the county and is celebrating its 136th Annual fair August 4-8th, in 2021. The Central St. Louis County fair, celebrating over 100 years this year takes place the third weekend in August in Meadowlands, Minnesota. This year's fair is August 20-22nd. The South St. Louis County fair celebrated in Proctor, Minnesota, held its 100th annual fair July 28th through August 1st, 2021.
County fairs have roots in agriculture and many of our fairs include showcasing livestock, horticulture, food and merchant vendors, and educational activities such as 4-H, FFA, and other youth programs. County fair activities and traditions allow us to come together with our neighbors and friends to have fun and learn about farming and its connection to the food on our dinner plates.
THE HISTORY OF FAIRS
The word “fair” can be linked to the Latin word feria, which means “holy day.” Some of the earliest fairs on record were linked to religious celebrations and leisure time. Dating back to the Roman Empire, the feriae were a series of religious days that were acknowledged and financed by government. These public holidays shared traditions of games, competitions, and other festivities. There were two types: feriae privatae and feriae publicae.
By the Middle Ages, the Roman feriae concept grew to include foreign merchants to gather to buy, sell, and trade goods with the public. Medieval fairs united historic festivities with popup markets and often were linked with a Christian religious day, such as a saint’s Feast Day, and held at local parishes. The combination of commerce, religion, and festivities became the hallmark of fairs, which remained popular for several centuries.
Fast-forward several hundred years and we observe fairs moving away from their early religious associations, to focus on education, agriculture, and competition. In the U.S., agricultural fairs did not catch on until the early 19th century, when the first American fair was organized by the Berkshire Agricultural Society held in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. This early fair, then known as a “cattle show” was organized by Elkanah Watson, a New England patriot and farmer, in September of 1811. This exhibition fair was primarily a competition with prize money ($70) paid for the best display of oxen, cattle, pigs, and sheep.
The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. “Feriae | Ancient Roman Festival Days.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 8 Nov. 2007, www.britannica.com/topic/feriae. Accessed 3 Aug. 2021.
“History of Fairs.” International Association of Fairs & Expositions, www.fairsandexpos.com/History-of-Fairs. Accessed 3 Aug. 2021.
“American Traditions: A Short History of Agricultural Fairs.” Arcadia Publishing, Aug. 2018, www.arcadiapublishing.com/Navigation/Community/Arcadia-and-THP-Blog/August-2018/American-Traditions-A-Short-History-of-Agricultur.