For one week each year, the Steele County Free Fair located in Owatonna, MN welcomes hundreds of thousands of fairgoers to enjoy all it has to offer! You'll find an array of family events including:
The first fair in Steele County was held on October 17, 1860. Some highlights of that year's premium entries are very interesting by today's view!
-Best yoke of working oxen won $6
-Best wagon made in Steele County won $3
-Best buggy made in Steele County won $5
-Best team and plow won $2
-Best butter churn won $1
-Best corn won $.50
-Best flour won $.50
There is no record of fairs being held after the first fair until 1871. Historians suspect that the Civil War was the cause.
From 1871 through 1917 the fair was held at various sites throughout Owatonna until 1871 when the fair was held on 40 acres of pasture land at the head of Main Street in eastern Owatonna and eventually moved to the current site of 70 acres in 1918.
Steele County made real history when the Minnesota State Fair was held here in 1883 and 1884. Large crowds came by chartered trains to enjoy the fair.
By 1927, the fair made the decision to make the fair a "free fair". The fair grew and thrived.
The 1930's brought lavish stage shows with beautiful chorus lines that played before the grandstand nightly. By 1932 big car racing came to the fair. Auto racing and motor events became big attractions.
Free stages developed by 1979 and have hosted hundreds of acts. The fair has also had a strong agricultural history. It still hosts about 2000 animals at the fair every year and the fastest growing show is horses.
The fair has always attracted merchandise and food vendors and now hosts over 500 booths with over 100 different food stands each year. In 2009 the fair had vendors from over 26 states. In addition to the merchandise and food stands, today's fair features 24 bands, everything from old time to hard rock and dixieland to gospel music.
With attendance in the 1920's reaching 30,000 to over a quarter of a million visitors today, plus the hundreds of volunteers working together annually to assure a successful fair, you can see why the Steele County Free Fair has been billed as Minnesota's largest county fair for over 80 years.