Benson County Fair Poster, Minnewauken, ND 1928
SHSND# 1071-1Pembina claims to be the first county in North Dakota to host a county agricultural fair. The Pembina Fair at Hamilton started in 1894, but other counties, including Morton County (in Mandan) under the direction of the Missouri Slope Agriculture and Fair Association, began hosting fairs soon after, and Fargo held a fair at least as early as 1873. The Morton County event was sometimes named a County Fair, sometimes the State Fair, but sheepishly admitted it was not the largest fair in the state. Through its premiums it encouraged entries from the entire western portion of North Dakota.
The first fair took place in Fargo in 1873. Though no written account has been found of the fair, the SHSND has a prize won by Mrs. Andrew (Conie) Holes of Moorhead. Mrs. Holes, a native of Pennsylvania, was 39 in 1873 and recently married. Her husband was a “land agent.” (Ancestry.com)
Fargo hosted another fair in 1874. It apparently lasted only one day (“last Friday”) as reported in the Bismarck Tribune on September 30, 1874. “The vegetables were as fine as one could wish to see and one squash is reported weighting 95 pounds.” One exhibiter, Mr. W. H. Leverett, sent the Tribune some of his exhibit which included “corn, cabbage, carrots, turnips, beets, onions, potatoes, hubbard squash, citrons, salsify, kail [sic], tomatoes, and ground cherries.”