History of the Lyon County Fair
In the Aug. 19, 1964, article in the Marshall Messenger, Ray Newell, county agricultural agent, predicted that there would be 548 County 4-H’ers showing 2,375 project exhibits at the County Fair, Aug. 27-10. County fair attendance was up 13% over 1963. Sixteen 4-H’ers exhibited at the State Fair the same year.
The first Tractor Pulling Contest was held at the County Fair in August of 1964 with 31 tractors entered in five different weight classes. Quoting from the Sept. 2, 1964, issue of the Lyon County Independent, “There was very nearly a full house in the grandstand when the entries paraded around the track to get the contest underway. Many of the spectators had never seen a pulling contest before, but it did not take them long to get the idea of the event and to get into the spirit of the competition. First place in Class A was Albert Loken, Cottonwood; in Class B was Jack Fischer, Wabasso; in Class C was Larry Nelson, Canby; in Class D was Wally Arends, Wabasso; in Class E was Butch Oschsendorf of Canby.”
Entertainment features included in 1963 two performances of the Marlo’s 3-Ring Circus featuring performing elephants, Miss Lola, Harriett Beatly and Her Trained Lions, Princess Elena Omar (direct from Madrid, Spain), the Three Goetschis (cycling antics), Sandra Jean and Her Military Ponies and Pauline and her Poodles. At the 1964 County fair, the entertainment featured the Grand Old Opry Country Music Jamboree, which included Johnny Western, the Plainsmen, and Kathy Perry of the Red Foley Show. Country singer Barbara Mandrell appeared at the 1979 fair, just prior to her breakthrough to superstar status, costing a mere $7,500. In 1985 the Chicago Knockers, All-Girl Mud Wrestling appeared under much controversy and protests from local residents. Other, now-famous entertainers, who appeared at the Lyon County Fair over the years included Pat Boone, Roy Clark and Suzy Bogguss.
Frank Josephson of Minneota served on the Lyon County Fair Board from 1957 to 1992. In a recent interview, he described how the building landscape has changed over the years at the fairgrounds. The Secretary’s Office that sits in the middle of the grounds used to be only half the size it is today, and that was divided into two sections with the front serving as the area for the secretary to collect fees, etc., and the back half was the meeting room for the fair board. The round barn was built as a show place for beef cattle with the back part used for open class cattle and horses. The present pole barn replaced the old sheep shed. Josephson remembers having slept in the upstairs of the sheep shed as a 4-H’er. The grandstand was built in the 1940s and 1950s. The commercial building was built in the early 1960s, and the 4-H building was constructed in the 1970s and used for grain storage when the fair was not in session. Josephson said that the fairground land and building used to be owned by the Fair Association and was self-supporting until the late 1930s and 1940s when the association got into financial trouble. At that time the association decided to give the land and building to the county, which would enable them to borrow money. When the county took over, they built the highway department on part of the old parking lot.
(Continued next week)
Sources: History of Lyon County, A.P. Rose; News Messenger, Oct. 4, 1912; “Lyon County Agricultural Annual Report,” 1936 and 1937 editions, F. J. Meade; Balaton Press, Aug. 22, 1963; Tracy Headline Herald, Aug. 29, 1963; Marshall Messenger, Aug. 19, 1964; Lyon County Independent, Sept. 2, 1964.