As a child I remember street fairs in the small town where I was raised. These street fairs were magic. Ferris wheels reached to the sky, cotton candy, games of chance, little ducklings in ponds, watermelon eating, pies, produce, tables of sparkling jars of canned goods and preserves, and barns full of farm animals. The smell, lights, sounds of those brilliant summertime memories have never left me.
Street Fairs were a tradition in small towns around the country. Our city of Dassel was no exception to that tradition.
Beginning in 1875 Dassel hosted monthly fairs in conjunction with Cokato; first Saturday in Cokato, third Saturday in Dassel. The fairs, sometimes called Marken, were an opportunity for farmers to bring in produce and animals to sell. Local stores would hold sales, bringing merchandise out into the streets to sell at a discount. City avenues were blocked from traffic, with street corners being dedicated to games of chance, food vendors.
The monthly fairs continued for 20 years, eventually morphing into a yearly fair beginning in 1905.
Here was the magic, roaming carnivals brought ferris wheels and carousels equipped with gaudily painted horses and swans. Games of chance set up to lure eager young men away from their coin to supply girlfriends with teddy bears. Children ran about, fingers sticky with cotton candy, their cries of delight punctuating the sounds of the fair.
Animals were brought to display; their coats brushed to a sleek shine. Produce, crops, and preserves were presented. Quilts, embroidery and art adorned walls. All participants hoped for bragging rights by taking home a prize ribbon at the end of the fair
Couples danced to the sounds of traveling dance orchestras, the soft sound of violins weaving a romantic melody in the air.
Eventually the fair moved to the site of the present ball field, animal barns were built, sturdy structures as placement for animal exhibits, poultry, sheep, cattle, hogs, horses, as well as those rows of sparkling canned goods, local art, quilts, home goods.
County fairs became a place of yearly gather, a looked to social event. Our Dassel fair was no exception.
After a time, in 1929, the fair moved to Litchfield, eventually to its present site at the Meeker County Fairgrounds. The Dassel Fair site was sold with buildings to Haapala and Pride seeds.
Though the fair is no longer here, the history, music, colors, and sound will forever live in my imagination.