The first fair in Fargo happened in the summer of 1906 and the city has held a fair nearly every year since, under a number of different names — The Fargo Fair, Fargo State Fair, North Dakota State Fair, the Inter-State Fair, and the Red River Valley Fair among them.
The photo above, of the 1908 Fargo State Fair parade, comes from a souvenir foldout postcard which was a popular item with fairgoers. The event drew a large crowd to the brand new grandstand.
The fair in Fargo, like most fairs of the time, was a common place to showcase new technologies. Although the first fixed-wing flight in Fargo would not happen for another three years, this airship flew at the Fargo State Fair in 1908. This particular craft consisted of a balloon filled with lighter-than-air gas, contained under a net which was fastened to the undercarriage. The ship had sand bags for ballast and a propeller connected by a driveshaft to an internal combustion engine for forward locomotion. The pilot steered the craft by pulling on ropes connected to a rear rudder. Just like the hobbyist flyers who would pilot hang-gliders and ultralights in the age of fixed-wing flight, this gentleman was likely an airship enthusiast, happy to demonstrate his passion with a small airship at a time when European builders were flying full-size zeppelins.
The photo shown above came from a postcard mailed from Fargo on August 12th, 1908, from someone who signed her name “Mab.” (short for Mabel?) to Miss Nora Asleson in Stoughton, Wisconsin. The message read in part:
“This is a picture of the airship they had at the State Fair. It’s a fine picture of it. Did you ever see one?”
This flight constitutes a very early, if not the earliest, documented airship flight in North Dakota.
The fair drew residents from all around the region to enjoy agricultural exhibits, carnival rides and games, sideshows, horse and auto races, and musical entertainment. The fairground shown in these photos occupied the space between Broadway and University Drive (then known as 13th Street) and 17th and 19th Avenues North. Most of the site is today occupied by Fargo North High School, plus the strip mall and NDSU student housing west of 10th Street.
There’s much more about the Fargo Fair (and additional photos), in the book, Fargo Moorhead Lost and Found.