Stillwater family shares memories of working at Minnesota State Fair for nearly 80 years

Alex Jokich
Updated: September 01, 2020 08:05 PM
Created: September 01, 2020 07:51 PM

A family from Stillwater that's worked at the Minnesota State Fair for nearly 80 years shared their special memories of the Great Minnesota Get-Together with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.

"It became our tradition that you're not going to miss the fair!" Laurie Wright said.

Laurie Wright said her grandfather, Al Wright, was the gate captain of the main admissions gate in the 1940s and instilled a love of the fair in the rest of the family.

"Then my dad, Theodore Wright, became main gate captain in the 1970s," she said. "He worked a full-time job and he took two weeks of vacation every year just to run the State Fair. He was so excited to be here."

Laurie Wright said her mother, who worked in agriculture, also loved going to the fair.

The family attended all 12 days of the fair every summer for decades. 

"The grandstand is where I first started my job at the age of 16," Wright said. "Back in the day, it had wood turnstiles. There was no security, it was all paper tickets and it was on the honor system of who was going in and out."

Wright said she worked at the grandstand with her sister, while her brother worked gate admissions with her father, letting in the entertainment acts.

"My dad would come home and be like, 'I got on Willie Nelson's bus today!'" Wright recalled. "He was always super excited about whatever entertainment was happening at the fair."

Laurie Wright said her father never skipped a summer in 36 years, continuing to work the main gate even while going through chemotherapy in 2003. Wright said he died a few months later. 

"There's absolutely nothing that would've stopped my dad from being here," Wright said. 

The family later dedicated a brick outside the grandstand in his memory.

"It's a little plaque that says, 'Meet Us At La Choy, The Wrights.' La Choy was a little restaurant right over there that we all would meet at every year," Wright explained. 

KSTP's full Minnesota State Fair coverage

Wright said the family is now carrying on the family tradition by hosting a booth for their business, Modern Envy Apparel, where they sell socks and hats. You can still purchase items virtually this year through the fair's online marketplace.

"Now we have the fourth generation working at the fair with us and bringing it all full circle," Wright said. "To carry on this tradition has meant a lot."

Wright said this is the first year the family's missed the State Fair but believes it was the right choice during this pandemic.

"It just makes you stronger to come back in 2021 and make it better," Wright said. 

If you'd like to share your family's favorite State Fair photos and traditions, click here.


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