The history of state fairs in America



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The history of state fairs in America

In some circles, a state fair is the highly anticipated culmination of the subtleties, quirks and characteristics that define that particular state’s people and places. It’s a time to celebrate statehood in a way that’s uniquely tailored to the state’s attractions and excitements.

Daytime excitements often include arts and crafts, livestock judging and food vendors galore, while nighttime attractions swing toward bright neon lights, spinning carnival rides, and spotlight arenas hosting demolition derbies, tractor pulls and rodeos.

State fairs are meant to entertain and bring people together, and the biggest state fairs in the nation see millions of people in attendance year after year. Let’s take a quick dive into how state fairs began and the history that followed.

State fairs began as unofficial sheep shearing demonstrations

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One man and his sheep are often given credit for lighting the first spark to what would later become the state fair tradition. Elkanah Watson began raising Merino sheep on a farm in Pittsfield, Massachusetts in the early 1800s. Watson, proud of his sheep, brought two prized specimens to Park Square for all to see in 1807, drawing a sizable crowd.

Watson’s sheep parades (he was known to take his sheep to the square on more than one occasion) began the gears turning on what would become the first agricultural fair in the United States that year. It would consist of Watson’s sheep and shearing.

demonstrations only.

By 1811, Watson had helped organize the Berkshire Agricultural Society, a group of friends and farmers, and local agricultural fairs evolved to include cattle shows and livestock showcases. The notion soon caught on, and communities outside of Massachusetts began hosting their own agricultural fairs.

These types of events eventually grew in size and scope to become state fairs.

The very first state fair was held in New York

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State fairs as they exist today — a cornucopia of carnival rides, neon-lighted games and inexpensive novelty prizes — didn’t take root until the 21st Century. The one-and-only original state fair was officially held in 1841 in Syracuse, New York as a recreational gathering and agricultural competition.

This inaugural state fair began as a natural extension of the New York State Agricultural Society and was first organized in an attempt to promote agricultural improvement. Approximately 15,000 people gathered in Syracuse in late September 1841 to enjoy a plowing contest, sample manufactured goods, and view animal exhibits.

The first state fair was appropriately called the New York State Fair, but it would see a number of distinctive titles throughout the years. These included the New York State Agricultural and Industrial Exposition (1938) and the New York State Exposition (1961). Today, given its history and long-standing tradition, the annual event still held in Syracuse is called The Great New York State Fair, and more than one million people attend every year.

The rest is state fair history

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States began to catch the fair bug after the success of the New York State Fair in 1841. Livestock shows and the likes grew in size and popularity, but nothing compared to New York’s state fair until Michigan joined the party in 1849. The Michigan State Fair, held in Detroit, was one of the first statewide fairs in the United States.

States like TexasMaineSouth CarolinaIowa, and more would jump on the state fair bandwagon over the next half-decade, hosting their own statewide events and increasing annual attendance as popularity spread.

Livestock shows and sheep shearing were still part of the appeal, but as state fairs grew so too did their entertainment offerings. Soon, state fairs included things like x-ray machine demonstrations, vehicle showcases, and telephone/television/photography exhibitions.

State fairs, world fairs, and technology expos abound today

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State fairs paved the way in America for larger, more elaborate, often-specialized events held in the country, and people continue to create new and exciting events for the public to enjoy.

The first World’s Fair event hosted in the United States took place in New York City in 1853 and was called the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations (AKA the New York Crystal Palace Exhibition). More than a dozen similar World’s Fairs have been hosted in the United States since that time.

Today, annually, hundreds of different events and expositions are held all around the country, ranging from individual state fairs to pop culture exhibitions and consumer electronics shows.

How McDonald’s took over the world



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How McDonald’s took over the world

Some say they love it, some say they hate it, and those raking in megabucks through franchises certainly say I’m Lovin’ It. Whatever your opinion of McDonald’s, there’s no denying its worldwide popularity and influence on the fast food industry. From a single restaurant in 1940, in 2018 the chain reported over 36,000 restaurants in 101 countries that collectively served around 69 million customers per day. The company has battled environmental criticismlawsuits and mass staff strikes, yet remain a leader in their field. Here’s how McDonald’s took over the world.

The McDonald Brothers and Early Years

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The rags-to-riches journey began in 1940 in San Bernardino, California when siblings Richard and Maurice McDonald had a dream to make $1 million before turning 50. They opened a drive-in restaurant with carhop girls delivering cheap sandwiches to a clientele of mostly teenage and young adult males. Eager to streamline the business, the brothers introduced the Speedee Service System in 1948, which featured 15 cent hamburgers, fries, and milkshakes. On the back of their newly-found success, the siblings launched their first franchising campaign, with new stands opening in 1953.

Ray Kroc and the First Official McDonald’s

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In 1954, the Chicagoan Ray Kroc, who was a distributor for a milkshake machine used by the McDonald brothers, visited the San Bernardino stand. Impressed by the potential of the business, Kroc convinced the McDonalds to let him become their franchising agent. He opened the first official McDonald’s restaurant in Des Plaines, Illinois and had plans to expand nationwide and globally. By 1959 he had inaugurated 102 locations and bought the brothers out in 1961.

The Big Mac and the Golden Arches

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The 1960s was a time of great change and development for McDonald’s. The Filet-O-Fish debuted in 1962 and helped combat falling hamburger sales on Fridays in areas with strong Roman Catholic communities. Ronald McDonald replaced the Speedee chef as the company mascot in 1963. He was later joined by characters such as Hamburglar and Mayor McCheese, who helped to increase the chain’s appeal to children. Today’s legendary Big Mac appeared on menus in 1967 and some five billion were consumed in the first two years. At the end of the decade the iconic golden arches started to spring up. The colors were chosen because red is said to trigger hunger and yellow happiness.

The Drive-Thru and International Expansion

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With soldiers from Fort Huachuca prohibited from getting out of their vehicles in uniform, McDonald’s opened its first drive-thru in Sierra Vista, Arizona in 1975. This proved to be a catalyst for drive-thru restaurants across the USA and fast food fans relished in the company policy of delivering orders in 50 seconds or less. Having already successfully opened restaurants in British Columbia and Puerto Rico, the company entered 58 new countries by the early 1990s. In China the name has been adapted to Mai Dang Lao to fit with the phonetics of the language. Kosher food is served in Israel, and halal products are offered in Arab countries.

McDonald’s Today

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Today the McDonald’s brand is omnipresent the world over. Restaurant designs have changed from a kids’ focus to a family environment. There’s braille and picture menus specifically designed to aid customers with hearing, speech, and vision difficulties. There’s table service at some, self-service kiosks, mobile ordering, and home delivery. The menu has moved with the times, expanding from hamburgers and fries to include options such as breakfast, coffee, gluten-free items, ice creams, juices, and salads. What’s more, avid fans can relax knowing that the Big Mac, Happy Meal, Quarter Pounder, and other classics are all here to stay.