Steele County Fair History Tidbits
I googled some old articles about the Steele County Free Fair and most of the following appeared in a publication called The Billboard.
In 1922, the Steele County Fair ran three days and drew 35,000. Pretty impressive considering Owatonna's population was around 18,000. They took out a full page ad in the Minneapolis Tribune and Minneapolis Journal. The president of the fair was L. Kilma, who was also president of King Ventilation.
In 1943 there was a polio scare in Minnesota with around half the 1,200 cases in the Twin Cities area. Steele County reported a drop off in fair attendance due to this scare.
It was 1947 when there were two fatalities at the fair. Acrobat Topsy Ivanhoff died when his 32-foot pole snapped and he fell to the ground. His wife, who was also on the pole, had her fall broken, which probably saved her life. Los Angeles race car driver Bob Frame was also fatally injured at the fair.
1950 reports that the Steele County Fair is replacing harness racing with hot rods. The new $50,000 grandstand was opened, which will seat 3,000 with the potential for 3,000 more with portable seating.
Steele County wasn't always on top when it comes to fairs. In 1953, Freeborn County led fairs with $35,961 in receipts followed by Brown County and Steele County third with $33,986.
1956 fair attendance was 153,432. Credit was given to the ads placed in 39 newspapers along with six radio and TV stations.
1958 saw three county fairs in Minnesota draw over 100,000. Steele County was No. 1 with 164,041, followed by Mower at 141,387 and then Martin County.