Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Kitschy Minnesota county fair art in Morris August 14, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
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I MAY HAVE MISSED attending the Stevens County Fair in Morris when I was in this western Minnesota community for a family reunion this past weekend.

Fair, front view of sign

But I didn’t miss this kitschy piece of fair advertising positioned on the corner of the Family Dollar parking lot downtown.

Fair, exhibits chair

I expect most of the locals are so used to seeing this mini Ferris wheel rolled out every summer that they think nothing of it. However, as an outsider and one who appreciates such homegrown creativity, this certainly caught my attention.

Fair, end view

My two regrets are these:

That I could not attend the fair because, even though I am not a fan of tromping around a fairgrounds among a crowd of people, I expect this rural fair would have appealed to me.

I did not see this Ferris wheel brightened by the holiday lights attached to the frame. In my mind’s eye, I can visualize the Christmas bulbs popping with color in the fading prairie sunset.

Fair, demo chair

THAT ALL SAID, if any current or former Stevens County residents can enlighten me as to the history of this homemade Ferris wheel, please share. Who made it, when, has it always been parked downtown…?

Fair, food chair

And what about the fair itself? What do you love about the Stevens County Fair?

For the rest of you readers, did/will you attend a county fair this summer? Let’s hear.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


29 Responses to “Kitschy Minnesota county fair art in Morris”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    What a great display! I love it. The lights would be awesome at night for sure. No fair for us this year though we have done both the Iowa and Minnesota State Fairs in the past couple of years. Favorite things hands down are the animals. You just never know what variations you are going to see–just be careful where you walk.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      No fair for me this year either. Next year I’m going to put on my list to attend one of these really small rural fairs. I can already imagine the photo ops.

  2. No county fairs for us. But the State Fair is a must! I’ll be going twice this year! And that, of course, makes me wonder if county fairs in the metro area get short shrift because of their competition.
    Love the holiday lights on the Ferris wheel.

  3. treadlemusic Says:

    Went to the State Fair last year and just too much going on for this year’s trek. I’m not even sure we will get to the Houston County Fair (this week)….all of a sudden every moment of the rest of this week is totally filled!!! Whaaaa….? How did that happen!!!????

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Yes, where did the summer go? I hope you find time to sneak off to the Houston County Fair.

      • treadlemusic Says:

        I kinda doubt it. Today…sewing. Tomorrow….DH did an impromptu hire for someone to replace the suspended ceiling in the computer/guest room (which is also my fitting room) tomorrow. Off to the river for multiple b’day celebrations on Fri thru Sun. and a bridesmaid dress pick-up and try-on Sunday!!!! Yowza!!! I think I’ll get another cup of coffee!! LOL!

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        Alright, given that crazy schedule, I understand why the fair cannot be tucked into your days.

  4. I get a kick out of county fairs too. Ours was last weekend. It’s so fun to see names of kids we know whose animals have won ribbons!

  5. I remember going to the demo derby and the tractor pull at the fairs growing up. Then there were the bed races down Main Street in my small home town – those were a lot of laughs, especially when the beds just started falling apart. I remember going as a family to the MN State Fair too – that was one I truly enjoyed:) Thanks for the taking me down memory lane. Happy Hump Day!

  6. Jackie Says:

    Someone was very creative with their advertising, I agree with you, it would be neat to see it lit up with those jumbo christmas lights! Rick and I stopped at the Olmtead CO. fair long enough to get a foot long corn dog and a some cheese curds, our time was limited but we just had to have our once a year fair food 🙂

  7. Sarah Hill Says:

    I can shed some light on this mysterious ferris wheel you ran into. My parents and I actually made it along with the fair boarder’s input! We are a small, local fair who takes pride in free parking and free entry and bringing great entertainment every year to our visitors. This ferris wheel is our advertisement in local community picnic parades and stands on the main road to help visitors know the fair is in town and not too far away! It’s one of the most attended fairs in the area (nothing compared to the state fair) but for a town of 5,000 people it has a lot of entertainment and activities for the whole family!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Sarah, thank you so much for sharing the history of this mini Ferris wheel because I absolutely love it. When was it built? I suspected that it was also shown in parades and you confirmed that. I’ve heard rave reviews about your county fair from my sister-in-law who lives in Morris.

  8. Mary Hill Says:

    The Basic wheel of the ferris wheel was built many years ago for a homemaker’s display at the fairgrounds. Then it was stored away in the fair’s storage shed. About 5 years ago, I became a fairboard member and eventual secretary and I felt we needed to advertise our county fair by putting a float into several local parades. We started with a simple flat wagon with a sign and some flags. Then one day while I was looking for something in the storage shed, I see this “shell’ of a ferris wheel. Since no one was claiming it, I took the wheel home and proceeded to clean it up and plan for a way to add ‘seats’. My very handy husband proceeded to make me the 6 boxes and my daughter Sarah drew all the designs on each box. Then each box was painted bright colors. At parade time we put cabbage patch dolls and stuffed farm animals in the boxes. One year ago we purchased “traveling’ lights as we were going to put the float into the local winter holiday lights parade. At each parade we hand out brochures of fair activities, we throw out fair candy, and we throw out brightly colored t shirts that advertise the current year’s fair. I’m now looking into finding more permanent (wooden) children that can stay in the ferris wheel instead of always putting in the dolls and taking out the dolls. We also had grandiose plans of having the wheel turn. I was absolutely shocked that my daughter found this site and that our ferris wheel is appreciated so much. You most definitely have to come and attend our county fair; we work hard to put on a family friendly fair for kids of all ages! Mary Hill

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Mary, I love discovering these small town treasures, like your Ferris wheel, and showcasing them on Minnesota Prairie Roots. Thank you for sharing the details of this Ferris wheel’s evolution. It’s a great story and I would encourage you to print a copy of this post, with your comment, and give it to the local historical society, or to whatever place will best preserve its history. This is a gem and kudos to your family for coming up with this idea and making it work.

      Thank you for the invitation to your county fair. I could have attended this year, because I was in town on fair weekend. But my husband’s annual family reunion took precedence.

  9. Suzanne Smith Says:

    Adding to this conversation, this ferris wheel actually was first built for a Post-Prom party that had a fair theme. My daughter was a junior and I helped with the decorating. One of the very talented junior parents built it. It did not turn and the seats were made of styrofoam. After the party, it was stored in our machine shed. I was in charge of the Homemakers building at the fair at that time, and eventually it made its way there. From then on, it has been stored at the fairgrounds. The Hills did a fantastic job of restoring it!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Suzanne, thanks for adding your information to the history of this Ferris Wheel. Do you know what year this was built? This is getting to be quite the story…

  10. Suzanne Smith Says:

    It was built in the spring of 2004.

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