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Rooted in fair history


It’s so close you can smell the candy floss and hear the screams of youngsters on the midway as the Rainy River Valley Agricultural Society annual fall fair swings into action tomorrow in Emo.

But how did this popular district-wide event get started? To find the answer, you have to take a step back in time.

The Rainy River Valley Agricultural Society was formed Jan. 9, 1901 and in the fall, the first agricultural fair was held. Slate of officers included president Alexander Locking, vice-president Thomas Boucher, and second vice S.W. Stuart. (The following year, the secretary-treasurer was Ben Phillips).

The first fair was held in the shell of the grist mill which had been abandoned at Emo. From that day, the annual fair has been a great event in the lives of the people in the farming community.

For many years there was a two day fair, ending with a concert and ending with a dance. In later years, the three-day fair dropped the concert from their list of attractions. The dances are still a popular stop.

Title for the first land owned by the Rainy River Valley Agricultural Society is dated 1905. Title to the grounds were obtained in 1915 and 1920 with extra land being purchased at a later date. The first exhibition hall was made from cedar posts, vertical wood siding, and a shingle roof, situated just east of the main gate.

In 1913, the present hall was built and the old one moved to the west for use as a cattle barn. The first horse barn was built on the site of the Junior Farmers’ building and was moved around 1920 to the present horse barn location. That barn was used until replaced in the early 1960’s. The grandstand was built in 1920, but has since been replaced with a steel structure extended in its seating.

From this small, courageous beginning, the fair has grown. Each year saw the exhibits get a little larger, the quality better, and attendance more enthusiastic, serving as it did to draw from every part of the new district. It gave people a reason to get together once a year, strengthening of the spirit of cooperation which has characterized the Rainy River settlers through years.

Now each year, people from throughout the district and Northern Minnesota converge on Emo for the rewarding inspection of farm produce and livestock.

The annual fair now stands for something that was built up over the years, primarily from the steadfastness of our ancestors. But the reason so many still flock to the fairgrounds remains much the same—to meet with friends, school acquaintances, and former residents who still return to visit at fair time.

But as in years past, there is one obstacle that remains a threat to the fair—the weather.

Of course, it will take more than rainfall to dampen the spirits of fair-goers.

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