The Big Top in a Small Town.

Imagine the excitement when a circus comes to town.  In the days before flyers are posted on poles and buildings, and appear on kitchen tables, having been brought home with eager hope for a trip to the Big Top!

Children hum with anticipation, pulling out any possible coins they may have saved over the year. Businesses plan to close for the day, farmers will do their chores early, the circus is coming, the circus is coming to town!!!

From Water for Elephants

*In 1884 The Col. Giles Great American Two Ring Circus travelled to town, with 65 wagons full of delight for the villagers viewing, parading through town, previewing the coming excitement. They quickly set up, strong men pulling the ropes of the Big Top up above the tall poles. The canvas was set, and the show was on. There were lion tamers, sideshow acts, *candy butchers selling candy, sundries, and souvenirs from stands.  With two big tops the entertainment was doubled. Trapeze acts brought breathless gasps under one tent while dancing elephants with costumed riders entertained under the other. The populace was wowed.

*The next morning the Col. Giles circus loaded back up to head to their next stop in Glencoe, MN.  The wagon that held the lion veered off the road and headed down the hill towards Pigeon Lake.  Luckily the lion did not escape, and was unharmed, and soon the circus was on its way

*Other circuses came to town, WW. Coles, Forepaughs, Sells Brothers, Gollmar Brothers, John Robinson and the Campbell Brothers.  And eventually the Ringling Brothers brought their show to town.

Circus day was a holiday, one looked forward to every year.  An opportunity for just a little bit of tawdry glamour to grace the streets of Dassel.

Circuses have changed over the years; the glitzy appeal has been overshadowed by our awareness of humane treatment of performers and animals alike. We have learned much and changed much. But still, the excitement was an unquestionable part of growing up in a small town many years ago.

Author’s Notes

* Candy Butcher Definition, I was also confused!

*Much information was received from Those were the Days by Oscar Lindquist

*All dramatic interpretation was my own.

Ah! The Fair Days of Summer.

The Merry Go Round

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.

Coming to Dassel

Meeker County Townships have an incredible History. Follow along to learn more.

Writing about...Writing

Some coffee, a keyboard and my soul! My first true friends!

Tilly Evan Jones

“I want to think again of dangerous and noble things. I want to be light and frolicsome. I want to be improbable and beautiful and afraid of nothing as though I had wings.” ~Mary Oliver

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