10 - Heritage Square
Click Image for a Larger VersionTeen Fair at Heritage Square Text
Teen Fair at Heritage Square
Heritage Square is a fun place to go and experience history. But did you know that it wasn’t the first attraction with a theme to live on this site?
For a long time, teenagers were an underserved audience at the fair. So in 1963, the Teen Danceland was inaugurated on Commonwealth Avenue, with thousands of teenagers attending. It was so successful that it was permanently moved to where Heritage Square is today. The name changed over the years from Teen Age Fair, to Young America Center, and finally the Youth Expo. But it didn’t matter what the name was. If you were a teen, this was the place to be!
“It was a great place to hear music and dance in the 1960s. It had food and refreshments stands and a few silly fad stands for the time selling things like ‘lava lamps.’ It was set up for teenagers to have fun, hang out with their friends and meet people.”
It was often referred to as “the fair within the fair,” especially when the area was fully enclosed. Sixty-one cabana-style booths, a building for events like fashion shows along with the existing dance floor created a great attraction for teens. They couldn’t get enough of it. A 1965 state fair program lured teens by pitching:
“….Back by demand from a quarter million guys and gals who dug the Fair last year. New Features galore! – including a huge 80 –foot round Dance pavilion that won’t stop quaking all day. Fifty pop-rock bands battling for that Hollywood contract award. Fashion shows for Teens, custom and classic car exhibit, Hootenanny, Scooter shows and lots more
The Teen fair was a place where kids could express themselves, often with great humor. A late 1960s teen art show had the theme of Mt. Rushmore, updated with the faces of Paul, Ringo, George and John. That’s the Beatles, of course!
But by 1975, teens no longer wanted to be separated from the larger fair and attendance declined. The space was converted into what we see today. And what a contrast! Heritage Square was (and still is) promoted as an exploration into early American history.
But maybe…if you listen closely, you might still hear the distant music from the 60s and 70s when, for a teenager, this was the hippest place to be at the fair.
Early American History at the Square
“It’s kind of our family tradition to all meet up at the fair and go to Heritage Square where we watch the blacksmith or the wood working man. We always take the tour through the train that they have there and walk around the fun little quirky shops.”
Heritage Square is a unique place to look back at early American history. In the Square you might explore the Royal American carnival train car, vintage Speedy’s Garage, an authentic log cabin, or an old newspaper printer. Heritage Square officially opened in 1975, but it really took off the following year in celebration of the nation’s Bicentennial.
“When I was 11, in 1976, which was the bicentennial, Heritage Square had decided that all of the vendors needed to wear costumes. So we all dressed in kind of oldy timey clothes, which for me consisted of a lovely orange and white checked gingham dress with a bonnet. Orange was my favorite color at the time, so probably not very historically accurate, but that’s what I wanted. I spent twelve days in a pioneer costume, sitting in the booth with the wooden furniture, watching the visitors go by.”
And for those fairgoers who want to go down memory lane, the State Fair Museum is the place to visit.
“…oh, the history. It’s unbelievable the history of the fair. If you like the fair, you’ll like history. And it’s here. I mean there’s so many things. People love this place.”
The museum displays photos of celebrities who have entertained us over the years, a souvenir pair of miniature Lee overalls, a funny looking contraption that held airplane wing walkers in place, and--of course--Dan Patch memorabilia …
When your brain is too tired to soak in any more history, just sit back and relax by the Heritage Square stage to enjoy some great music.
Who was Mr. State Fair?
“I really truly believed he was Mr. State Fair. I mean he believed in this museum so much. It shows. It shows by everything he did.”
Gale Frost started the Minnesota State Fair museum in the 1960s and spent much of his youth at the fair with his family
“When Gale was ten, his father had a concession here. He sold lemonade and Gale hung out as a child here. At one time he wanted to be a sword swallower. But his dad wouldn’t let him. He just had that great love for the fair. So, he was here for many many years.”
After Gale Frost retired from his job as a fertilizer salesman, the fair asked him to create the museum. So, he filled it with all sorts of memorabilia that he had packed away in his basement.
“They knew he had this collection. He was friends with everybody. When Gale was asked to do this museum he sent letters out to everyone he knew that performed here whether it was the entertainers, royal American shows, to see if they would donate something to his museum. And they did.”
The museum resembles what used to be referred to as a cabinet of curiosities. It’s filled top to bottom with wall to wall objects, each with a label hand-printed by Gale.
In 2004 Gale Frost retired with the honorary title of State Fair historian; he died three years later. But his work continues to delight new and old fairgoers alike,
“…the fair was always in his heart. He kind of reminds you of a carnival guy. He would have made a good one. He could convince you of anything. He was just a wonderful man…”
Your History Brought to Life
Heritage Square brings History to life. How would you bring something from your history to life?