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2012 Fair preview... and a little history, too

This photograph of Market Day in 1910, in downtown Perham, shows people and livestock congregating on the south side of Main Street in the block between 1st Ave. and 2nd Ave. SE. To the right are the former Merchants Hotel and Drahmann's Department Store. The wood frame house in the center was known as the Gratzek house and the building still stands today, most recenty operating as a gift shop. Photo from the History Museum of East Otter Tail County1 / 3
Folk musicians Curtis and Loretta are scheduled to perform at this year's fair. Publicity photo2 / 3
Publicity photo Minnesota chainsaw carver Curtis Ingvoldstad is just of many entertainers scheduled to perform and give demonstrations at this year's fair.3 / 3

What do goats, pigs, demolition derbies, carnival-style rides, live bands, tractor pulls and chainsaw carvers all have in common?

They're all a part of this year's East Otter Tail County Fair, happening at the fairgrounds in Perham Thursday through Sunday.

This year's fair offers a fun, diverse schedule of events, perhaps even more so than in the past thanks to a new performance shelter and an effort by organizers to offer plenty of free things for people to do.

"We've tried to get entertainment that appeals to all ages and tastes," said Pete Zavadil, president of the fair's board of directors. "We've also tried to get a lot of free entertainment - the fiddle contest and the chainsaw carver, things like that."

The fiddle contest will take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday, while chainsaw-carving demonstrations by Curtis Ingvoldstad will occur at various times throughout the weekend, beginning Friday at 5:30 p.m.

Other events at the shelter will include music by local singer/songwriter Elisa Korenne at 4 p.m. today (Thursday), British Isles folk by Curtis and Loretta at 4 p.m. Friday, and shows on Sunday by the Heart O' Lakes Harmony Barbershop Quartet, at 1 p.m., and County 20 Band (bluegrass music) at 2:30 p.m.

But the music doesn't stop there - on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, the Electric Feel Band will perform by the beer garden from 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.

For ride lovers, the carnival will open tonight at 5 p.m., Friday and Sunday at 1 p.m., and Saturday at noon. Demolition derby fans won't be disappointed, either, with a derby at 7 p.m. Friday. Tractor pulls will happen at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday.

Animal shows and exhibitions of livestock will be ongoing through the weekend; open class entry started this morning at 9 a.m., kicking off this year's fair events, while the 4-H awards program will conclude events on Sunday, beginning at 4:30 p.m. Animals shown will include cattle, swine, goats, sheep, horses, dogs, rabbits, chickens, turkeys and more.

There will also be a "Favorite Baby" contest again this year. Photos of area babies born in 2011 will be on display at a booth run by the Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life.

Special days at the fair include: military and veterans day Thursday, senior citizens day Friday, kids day Saturday, and family day Sunday.

This is only a partial listing of events. Many other games, demonstrations and vendors will be a part of this year's fair. For a complete schedule, pick up a free copy of the 2012 East Otter Tail County Fair Book or visit

"We've got the new performance shelter in the park, we've painted some buildings and things are looking really nice at the fairgrounds," said Zavadil. "There've been some changes made. Come and take a look, see what we've done, and take advantage of some free entertainment."



By Lina Belar

History Museum of East Otter Tail County

In 1908, a group of citizens from Perham and the nearby vicinity held a meeting for the purpose of organizing a Market Day and Street Fair Association. Membership grew rapidly, and by 1910 the Street Fair lined Front Street (now Main Street) in downtown Perham with each merchant having an exhibit in front of his or her store and offering prizes. Carnival tents lined the middle of the streets and the merry-go-round usually stood on a vacant lot a block south.

The Officers of the Perham Agricultural Society elected Sept 10, 1910 read like a Who's Who of early Perham: J. H. Shea, John Oswald, J.P. Caughlin, John Kukowski, Math Schroeder, B.A. Schoeneberger, Vincent Drahmann, M.J. Gans, A.G. Schwarzrock, and A. Marckel. Many were the sons of early pioneers and, like them, showed energy and enthusiasm for this new community.

As interest in the annual celebration grew it was decided to add exhibits of garden vegetables, and in 1916 stakes for an Exhibition building were driven at the East Otter Tail County Fairgrounds. At the same time, enclosures and buildings were built for the housing of livestock.

Prior to WWII, the WPA (Works Progress Administration) built three structures for the fairgrounds, including the livestock barn and the ticket gate.

Since 1962, many steel buildings have been erected. Entertainment has included carnival rides, ethnic foods, modified and out of field tractor pulls, sports events, mud runs, horse shows, demolition derbies and musical acts too numerous to mention.

Sources for this article include the East Otter Tail History Books, and the archives of the History Museum of East Otter Tail County.