The fair in wartime

1917 Minnesota State Fair
Image from Hennepin History Museum’s collection.

Minneapolitans, like Minnesotans across the state, turned their thoughts to the Minnesota State Fair in late August 1917. The throngs of fair attendees shown here had more on their minds than just roasted corn and prize-winning pigs, though. The United States was now formally at war, and Minnesotans were already feeling the impact. Red Cross nurses fresh from the front lines in Europe demonstrated techniques for tending to injured soldiers. Machinery Hill’s focus shifted to helping farmers adjust to labor shortages. And home gardening and canning demonstrations took on a new sense of urgency. Earlier in the year there had been concern that the federal government would order all state fairs closed due to the war, but — luckily for fair fans — fairs were deemed ideal locations to provide information and training to promote war efforts. The federal government ultimately used the 1917 Minnesota State Fair to launch a new food initiative intended, among other things, to encourage Americans to grow and preserve their own food and to eat less wheat and meat at home so that it could be sent abroad.

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