State Fair

Minnesota State Fair auction closed Tuesday, some items sold for thousands

Art Lemke is inspecting an antique car
Art Lemke inspects an antique car at the State Fair auction on Tuesday in Falcon Heights.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

The quiet Minnesota State Fairgrounds got an off-season influx of visitors Tuesday morning, as dozens of people looked at hundreds of pieces of fair memorabilia.  

The fair closed its auction Tuesday where bidders could buy artifacts from defunct carnival rides to old farm equipment to office chairs. Tuesday morning, bidders came by to inspect items.  

Lonny Piche is an antique dealer in Hudson, Wis., He’s bid on some old circus posters, featuring pigs doing tricks and tiny cars on tightropes. He stopped to admire some old farm machinery and a huge intricately painted safe. 

An antique bank vault is seen
An antique bank vault is seen at the Minnesota State Fair auction.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

Piche puts on an antique show at the fair, but he said if he won any of the items, he’d hold on to them. He’s also a collector and a history buff, and he said these are for his own personal collection. 

“There’s just a lot of neat history here,” he said. “Everybody loves the State Fair.” 

Fair staff said that they needed to clear out some of their storage — things have piled up over the years. Proceeds from the auction will go towards upkeep of the fairgrounds and buildings. 

A parade shoes is seen
A parade shoes is seen at the Minnesota State Fair auction.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

Some of the big-ticket items have high price tags. A red two-seater Kiddy Kar sold for $3,050. A Jefferson Highway sign sold for $2,600. A display case with an aerial photo of the fairgrounds, a pinball machine and a crane game all sold for more than $1,000 each.

But for some visitors, it’s not all about buying. Art Lemke pored over old photos of the Midway and past Princess Kay of the Milky Way winners, posing with big-name Minnesota figures like Hubert Humphrey.  

“It just brings back so many memories, because I’m a state fair junkie,” Lemke said. “I’d come out, every year come out at least five, six, seven, eight days a year.”

Antique photographs and frames are seen
Antique photographs and frames are seen at the Minnesota State Fair auction.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

Lemke’s mom used to sell hot dogs at the fair, back when they cost a dime. After he retired, he pulled some shifts at the fair, too.  

Lemke said he didn’t bid. He already has years’ worth of State Fair pins, T-shirts and posters, and he’s out of space to collect more. He came to reminisce on the bygone era of ten-cent hot dogs and circus sideshows.  

“It’s great to come in here and just see part of the history, part of the past,” Lemke said.  

The company Auction Masters ran all of the bidding online.