Minnesota State Fair Tunnel of Love is Oldest in United States

Northland Uncovered: Ye Old Mill

DULUTH, Minn. – The Great Minnesota Get-Together started up last week and already thousands of visitors have taken a ride on one of the fair’s oldest traditions.

Wooden boats floating through Ye Old Mill at the Minnesota State Fair carry generations of love stories with them.

As the nation’s oldest tunnel of love, the ride has been taking lovebirds through the dark tunnels for 102 years.

The ride is still owned and run by the same family.

“It just kinda becomes part of who we are,” explained Jim Keenan.

Jim’s great-grandfather built Ye Old Mill and Jim is one of the current owners.

Construction on the mill began in 1913 and rides began at the fair in 1915.

Not only is Ye Old Mill 102 years old, but the rack and the motor are both original.

“The only real change that has happened is in the configuration of the tunnel and that happened in the early 40s,” Keenan said.

Keenan started working full time at the booth at the age of 14, making this his 36th year at the fair.

“I remember sneaking peeks in the trap doors trying to catch people kissing and things like that,” Keenan said.

His favorite memory is when Janet Jackson took a ride with Jimmy Jam.

Keenan says word quickly spread that Jackson was on the ride, “In the three and a half minutes it takes to go around this entire sidewalk was wall–to–wall people.”

As Jackson’s security detail was in the boat behind her, Keenan was able to help her out of the boat.

“She saw the people and the people were kinda like this and I was fortunate enough to be there and she just gave me a full front hug, whispered in my ear “get me out of here now.””

Other than hosting celebrities and couples, many families make this a necessary stop on their yearly fair trip.

“We had a lady, this was a few years back, she was 92 and she had ridden it every year of her life and so she was bringing on her great–great grandchildren,” said Keenan.

It’s stories like these that mean the most to Keenan as he and his family see thousands of fair-goers integrate their family traditions with the Keenan’s.

“To be part of people’s traditions, is, that’s pretty honorable; I take a lot of pride in that,” said Keenan.

Ye Old Mill is located on the Southwest corner of Underwood St. and Carnes Ave.

It costs $3.25 to take a ride.

 

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