More than 300 black-and-white illustrations vividly portray the fair and its many faces. Historic photographs show long-gone amusements-the wooden Cannon Ball roller coaster, an organ grinder and his monkey, reenactments of famous battles at the Grandstand-as well as early versions of fair scenes that know no era: crowds, traffic jams, trinket sellers, prize winners. Reproductions of advertisements, posters, ribbons, lapel pins, and newspaper cartoons give a glimpse of the cheerful hype of promoters and the tongue-in-cheek commentary that accompanied their efforts. And contemporary photographs capture the fair's varied moods and scenes, from the early-morning preparations in a church dining hall through the stresses and joys of showing animals, the thrill of the Midway, the lure of deep-fried foods, and the excitement of being crowned a queen, to the clean-up of tons of garbage in the night's wee hours.
Along with the glitter and the fun, the Minnesota State Fair has always been a microcosm of midwestern life. Almost 150 years of cultural, social, aesthetic, economic, and technological change have left their mark on the venerable institution. And, at the same time, the fair has made its mark on society-urban as well as rural. Displays of women's work or farm machinery, the fine arts or the prize bull-all have been part of the fair's dual mission of education and entertainment. Each of Blue Ribbon's chapters focuses on one such topic, showing how the state fair grew and responded to prevailing tastes and conditions-and how it sometimes acted as a powerful agent of change.
Art and architecture, politics, social movements, and agricultural history are all part of this story-along with the dimensions of giant radishes, the memories of early fairgoers, and a listing of the calories in favorite state fair foods. Like the fair itself, this book offers something for everyone. Here are the sights, if not the smells and sounds, of "The World's Greatest State Fair."