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46 State Fairs and What Makes Them Special

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One of the most quintessentially American traditions of all is the State Fair. New Englander Elkanah Watson is credited with creating the first agricultural fair in the U.S.: the Pittsfield, Massachusetts Cattle Show in 1811, which exhibited animals and awarded prize money to the best oxen, cattle, swine, and sheep. In the next few years, county fairs popped up throughout New England, and by 1841, the country had its first state fair, in Syracuse, New York, designed to show off New York’s agricultural prowess with livestock and giant-vegetable competitions.

Today, there are over 3200 fairs in North America each year, according to the International Association of Fairs and Expositions, and attendance is booming. Several draw over a million visitors each year. You’ll still find most of the things you’d have seen at those early fairs today: a chance to show off the best agriculture, livestock, horticulture and other products from that region, even though far fewer Americans are involved in agriculture than when they got started. But you’ll also find a whole lot more, and part of the appeal is unabashed celebration of sheer quirkiness—where else can you find veggies on steroids, moose-calling contests, butter sculptures, and not just racing pigs, but racing dogs with monkey jockeys? 

Here are a few highlights of what you’ll find at fairs across the country today.

1. ALABAMA — Alabama State Fair

Location: Pelham, AL
In operation since: 1947
Standout events: Alabama might be the only fair with more events in the modeling and talent competitions than livestock competitions. They’re serious, too: Aspiring models ages 4 to 28 are judged on runway, jeans, and swimwear, and those past age 15 must meet height requirements. Winners get photo shoots and meetings with agents—a big step up from the ribbons sheep and horse show winners get. 

2. ALASKA — Alaska State Fair

Location: Palmer, AK
In operation since: 1936
Standout events: Let’s face it, you’re probably not going to Alaska for the state fair. But if you happen to be in town, you can witness a peculiarly Alaskan pastime—giant cabbage growing. Alaska’s farmers seem to have a knack for growing steroidal vegetables. The most recent world record, in 2012, went to Scott Rabb and his 138 pound cabbage (above).

If mega-vegetables aren’t your thing, maybe you’d have better luck in the speed-texting or moose calling competitions. Note: must know the difference between—and demonstrate—separate bull and cow calls.  

3. ARIZONA — Arizona State Fair

Location: Phoenix, AZ
In operation since: 1886
Standout events: Most states’ fairs feature unique sources of state pride, so you’d think that Arizona might have gone with the Grand Canyon. Instead they created Trekkie Mecca. Of course, there are all the standard state fair attractions—performances, cooking and livestock competitions, a demolition derby and midway—but according to their website, organizers are especially proud of the exhibit featuring sets, costumes, and props from all five Star Trek TV series and 11 movies. Live long and prosper.

4. ARKANSAS — Arkansas State Fair

Location: Little Rock, AR
In operation since: 1938
Standout events: Arkansas’s events include the Great American Spam Cooking contest, but the real competition centers on the pageants, where fairgoers vie for the title of Fair Queen, Rodeo Queen, Mrs. Fair Queen, and Little Mr. and Miss Pageant. For those craving more adrenaline-fueled competition, it’s also a tour stop for a team of professional bull riders.

5. CALIFORNIA — California State Fair

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Location: Sacramento, CA
In operation since: 1854
Standout events: The highlight of California’s state fair in the early 1900s was a massive train crash staged each year to delight audiences with destruction, mayhem, and screaming twisted metal. It came to an end around WWI, when wrecking much-needed locomotives just for the fun of it was deemed a little too wasteful. Today, fairgoers can enjoy a calmer spectacle: the state fair is home to the oldest wine competition in North America, with over 2800 entries each year. Yes, fairgoers get to taste.

6. COLORADO — Colorado State Fair

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Location: Pueblo, CO
In operation since: 1872
Standout events: Lots of states have pageants, but only Colorado crowns a silver queen. It’s your typical pageant with one catch: all competitors must be nursing home residents. At the other end of the spectrum is the Little Britches Rodeo National Championships – these kids can ride. But there’s a competition for everyone in Colorado, even the less athletically oriented: it’s the only state fair offering a Pet Rock Olympics. 

7. DELAWARE — Delaware State Fair

Location: Harrington, DE
In operation since: 1920
Standout events: Delaware’s fair features a no less than five-day horseshoe pitching contest, and crowns a whole family: the Sheep and Wool Queen, Sheep and Wool Lass, Little Boy Blue and Little Bo Peep. Perhaps they get a leg up in the wool contest displaying the best-quality wool outfit and coordinating wool sheep?

8. FLORIDA — Florida State Fair

Location of fair: Tampa, FL
In operation since: 1904
Standout events: Florida is one of a surprising number of fairs that have added llamas to their livestock competitions. Some of last year’s winners had racehorse-worthy names—Oakrest’s First Snow, “Moose” Aladdin’s Sneak Preview, Peruvian Edison—but there’s also the less-exotic “Yeti.”

Young llama farmers are still second to the more traditional main attraction: Only kids showing steers get a portrait with their champion.

9. GEORGIA — Georgia State Fair

Location: Macon, GA
In operation since: 1851
Standout events: One fair wasn’t enough for Georgia. The official state-sponsored fair is the Georgia National Fair, but the longest-running is the Georgia State Fair. Perhaps it’s because only the State Fair offers the Banana Derby. The race features “America’s favorite monkey jockeys”—elaborately costumed capuchins that race on canine steeds. 

10. HAWAII — 50th State Fair

Location: Honolulu, HI
In operation since: 1937
Standout events: At Hawaii’s 50th State Fair, it’s all about the rides, some of which are shipped in from the mainland just for the event. According to an interview with fair organizers in Honolulu Pulse, the Zipper is the fair’s best-loved ride. The ride, in which fairgoers ride in spinning cages that dangle from chains flung around by a rotating arm, was so beloved that when the company organizing the fair sold the ride, the outcry was so strong they went out and bought a new one. The fair had a bit of an identity crisis in its early years, when for over a decade it was known as the 49th State Fair. Apparently, no one expected they’d get beat out by Alaska. 

11. IDAHO — Eastern Idaho State Fair

Location: Blackfoot, ID
In operation since: 1902
Standout events: For a truly one-of-a-kind sport, check out Idaho’s Indian Relays. Tribal teams from throughout the Rockies and High Plains regions come to compete in a dangerous bareback race requiring teams of three horses and four people. A rider must make three laps around the track, leaping to a new horse after each lap. Two teammates calm the waiting horse, while the fourth catches the arriving horse as the rider dismounts. Broken bones are not uncommon, but the $25,000 prizes—and particularly the bragging rights—make it a big draw.

12. ILLINOIS — Illinois State Fair

Location: Springfield, IL
In operation since: 1853
Standout events: Need for speed? The fair’s one-mile dirt track is considered one of the fastest in the world. Numerous horse racing records have been set there, including the fastest mile ever paced, but it’s now home to stock car racing as well—raising the speed limit considerably.

There’s also a celebrity harness race, a lesser-known form of horse racing in which the celebrity is jammed into a small, lightweight cart rolling on bicycle wheels and must guide his team of two horses to victory. “Celebrity” is a relative term—it’s decidedly local, generally drawing state politicians and officials.

13. INDIANA — Indiana State Fair

Location: Indianapolis, IN
In operation since: 1852
Standout events: It’s the year of popcorn in Indiana, the second-largest popcorn-producing state in the nation (we can barely imagine what they’d have done were they the biggest). Each year, fairgoers consume 4350 pounds of popcorn, but this year they decided to celebrate with a world record-setting 5200 pound popcorn ball, along with a popcorn maze. No word yet whether fairgoers will get to sneak a bite.

14. IOWA — Iowa State Fair

Location: Des Moines, IA
In operation since: 1854
Standout events: If you want the classic fair experience, Iowa’s the place to do it. It's also the only fair with an unabashed love of butter, thanks to the state's dairy industry. Check out the butter cow, a 100-plus year tradition in which a life-size cow is sculpted from 600 pounds of butter—enough to top 19,200 slices of toast, while snacking on a pork chop on a stick, one of which is sold about every 10 seconds throughout the fair.

15. KANSAS — Kansas State Fair

Location: Hutchinson, KS
In operation since: 1913
Standout events: If you really can do anything with duct tape, the Kansas State Fair is for you. In addition to the auction bid calling contest, spelling bee, and more traditional fair competitions—including an astonishing variety of pigeon judging events—fairgoers can compete on their ability to make things out of duct tape, with a separate competition for wearable creations.

16. KENTUCKY — Kentucky State Fair

Location: Louisville, KY
In operation since: 1902
Standout events: It’s no surprise the state home to the Kentucky Derby also hosts the World’s Championship Horse Show. More than 2000 horses compete for world champion titles and over $1 million in prize money.

17. LOUISIANA — Louisiana State Fair

Location: Shreveport, LA
In operation since: 1906
Standout events: Louisiana is home to a few competitions you won’t see anywhere else—leaf collecting and BB-gun sharpshooting, for starters. If you’re looking for a little more action, the cheerleading championships promise high-flying stunts. 

18. MAINE — Bangor State Fair

Location: Bangor, ME
In operation since: 1849
Standout events: The Bangor State Fair is home to one of the few eating contests you might want to join in on: the annual lobster roll contest. Last year’s winner devoured a whopping 37 rolls in 8 minutes, so taking home the title might be tough, but it’s one way to get your fill of an East Coast delicacy. Maine also offers a grizzly bear show – just don’t let the bears smell your sandwiches. 

19. MARYLAND — Maryland State Fair

Location: Timonium, MD
In operation since: 1878
Standout events: Most fairs have human pageants; Maryland has one for the livestock. On the fair’s opening day, kids competing in the livestock contests can parade their animals through the “Cow Palace” in homemade costumes, while announcers describe the stories behind their get-ups. 

20. MASSACHUSETTS — Eastern States Exposition

Location: Springfield, MA
In operation since: 1917
Standout events: In terms of state fair bang for your buck, it’s hard to beat the Eastern States Exposition, also known as “the Big E.” Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont join forces for a single New England mega-fair. Highlights include Mardi Gras-in-September, world-famous cream puffs, and the Big E Craz-E Burger—a bacon cheeseburger with two halves of a grilled glazed donut instead of a bun. 

21. MICHIGAN — Fifth Third Bank Michigan State Fair

Location: Novi, MI
In operation since: 1849
Standout events: Michigan’s state fair is something of an endangered species. The state cut all funding in 2009 and the fair disappeared for the next two years—despite some claims that state law actually required the Michigan Exposition and Fairgrounds Authority to conduct an annual fair. It’s now back as the “Fifth Third Bank Michigan State Fair.” One of its more bizarre features: a family exhibit known as the “fallen giant,” entered through a bloody hole in the giant’s head. 

22. MINNESOTA — Minnesota State Fair

Location: St. Paul, MN
In operation since: 1859
Standout events: “County Dairy Princesses” vie for the title Princess Kay of the Milky Way. The winner—chosen for her knowledge of the dairy industry, personality and enthusiasm for promoting dairy—becomes a goodwill ambassador for Minnesota’s 4000 dairy farmers and is immortalized with a statue of her face carved in butter.

23. MISSISSIPPI — Mississippi State Fair

Location: Jackson, MS
In operation since: 1859
Standout events: The carnival is center stage at the Mississippi State Fair: Its midway is crammed with roller coasters, games and spin-til-you-can’t-stand-it rides, and stretches a full mile long. They also boast a “Mr. Legs” contest, with a category for everyone: longest, shortest, skinniest and hairiest.

24. MISSOURI — Missouri State Fair

Location: Sedalia, MO
In operation since: 1901
Standout events: It’s only fitting that in the Show-Me State, fairgoers can get how-to lessons from the expert exhibitors, not just look. Whether you want to learn to bowfish, cook and clean your catch, raise livestock or pair fine wines, there’s a class to help you do it. 

25. MONTANA — Montana State Fair

Location: Great Falls, MT
In operation since: 1931
Standout events: Plenty of fairs have craft contests, but only Montana has speed-crafting. Each year, competitors can vie for the title of “Fastest Crochet Hook in Montana” and “Fastest Needle in Montana,” along with the Veggie 500—think Pinewood derby cars topped with onions, broccoli and rhubarb—and Ole Cow Lick Contest, featuring carved salt blocks in two categories: hand-sculpted and “Nature Carved” (i.e., sculpted by cow tongue). 

26. NEBRASKA — Nebraska State Fair

Location: Grand Island, NE
In operation since: 1868
Standout events: If rodeos make you think of cattle roping and bull riding, you’ve missed out on Nebraska’s Lineworkers Rodeo. Electric lineworkers take to the arena to showcase the high wire stunts they do to keep the power running, day-to-day and in emergencies. Why, you ask? Nebraska’s the only state served entirely by community-owned electric utilities.  

27. NEW HAMPSHIRE — Hopkinton State Fair

Location: Contoocook, NH
In operation since: 1915
Standout events: New Hampshire’s Hopkinton State Fair has long offered demolition derby and car racing events. New this year is the “Divorce Course”—a timed passenger car obstacle course, open to the public. The name speaks for itself. 

28. NEW JERSEY — New Jersey State Fair/Sussex County Farm and Horse Show

Location: Augusta, NJ
In operation since: 1924
Standout events: Despite its reputation as the land of interstates and industry, the Garden State’s agricultural fair has a long history. There are livestock shows and livestock obstacle courses, while humans can compete for the title of Lumberjack/Lumberjill in the annual wood chopping contest. 

29. NEW MEXICO — New Mexico State Fair

Location: Albuquerque, NM
In operation since: 1939
Standout events: Food is a main attraction at any fair, but New Mexico takes it a step further with the Unique Food Contest. Last year’s winners: Mini Donuts with Green Chile Icing, Fried Beer, and a Donut Burger. 

30. NEW YORK — The Great New York State Fair

Location: Syracuse, NY
In operation since: 1841
Standout events: As the site of the country’s first state fair, New York pays more attention to history than most. Between the fully-furnished log cabin with demonstrations of 18th century farm life, recreated Iroquois village, blacksmithing, and collection of horsedrawn vehicles, antique tractors and trains, and modern-day agricultural exhibits, it’s like zooming through the New York’s history in a time machine bouncing pinball-style through the decades.

31. NORTH CAROLINA — North Carolina State Fair

Location: Raleigh, NC
In operation since: 1853
Standout events: North Carolina puts curious fairgoers to work at a fully-functioning old-fashioned tobacco barn. It kicks off with a leaf-stringing contest, and after the state champion is crowned, the leaves strung on sticks are hung in the barn and cured by a wood fire for seven days. Fairgoers get to see the fruits of their labor at the end, though they probably don't get to smoke them.

32. NORTH DAKOTA — North Dakota State Fair

Location: Minot, ND
In operation since: 1922
Standout events: North Dakota held its first-ever Redneck Relay in 2012. Teams panned for gold (fishing through a mountain of whipped cream, no hands allowed, to find three gold coins), had to toss four corn ears in a bucket, run with an egg balanced on a spoon, shave a balloon (a version of sheep shearing designed to spare unfortunate ungulates) and carry a “greased pig”—or Crisco-coated watermelon.

33. OHIO — Ohio State Fair

Location: Columbus, OH
In operation since: 1853
Standout events: Like to play with your food? Ohio’s state fair has a food sculpting contest, and while amateur carvers may have trouble competing with pro chefs’ four-foot high masterpieces, novices will be given specific fruits and three hours to transform them into art, Master Chef-style.

34. OKLAHOMA — Oklahoma State Fair

Location: Oklahoma City, OK
In operation since: 1907
Standout events: The Oklahoma State Fair is a stop on the “Swifty Swine” racing pigs’ tour. These piglets—“America’s fastest swine,” according to the fair schedule—zip around the Pork Chop International Speedway Arena to win an Oreo cookie prize. According to the pigs’ website, the Yorkshires are quickest but meanest. Potbellies are friendlier, but you wouldn’t want to bet on them being first across the line.

35. OREGON — Oregon State Fair

Location: Salem, OR
In operation since: 1861
Standout events: One of the Oregon state fair’s most popular contests is the Milk Mustache contest. The State Dairy Princess Ambassador picks the most impressive mustaches; for an easy win, head straight there from the milk carton chugging contest.

36. SOUTH CAROLINA — South Carolina State Fair

Location: Columbia, SC
In operation since: 1869
Standout events: In addition to showing off the state’s domestic products, there’s also a decidedly non-local competition: Ikebana, or Japanese flower arranging. The South Carolina Mule and Donkey Association also hosts a fun day with wacky rodeo antics, wild cow milking, and a porcine costume competition interrupting the typical swine show events. 

37. SOUTH DAKOTA — South Dakota State Fair

Location: Huron, SD
In operation since: 1885
Standout events: Unlike the cow-calling and cherry pit spitting contests you see at most fairs, the South Dakota state fair Strong Man Competition isn’t for the faint of heart. Contestants complete five challenges, including carrying a rock as far as possible without dropping it, and flipping a tractor tire as many times as possible in two minutes. The less athletically inclined can watch the “Legislative Beef Show”—this time, it’s state politicians leading cows around the arena, and they’re the ones being graded on their showmanship. 

38. TENNESSEE — Tennessee State Fair

Location: Nashville, TN
In operation since: 1906
Standout events: Read through the list of equine demonstrations at the Tennessee state fair and one likely jumps out: horse bomb proofing. It’s not what you’d think—bomb-proof horses are safe, calm horses that won’t bolt even if a bomb goes off (in theory). Since the point is that they don’t get rattled, the trick riding and roping might make more entertaining viewing, or head for the state cornhole championships, with cash prizes for the best-aiming team. 

39. TEXAS — State Fair of Texas

Location: Dallas, TX
In operation since: 1886
Standout events: Everything’s bigger in Texas, and the state fair is no exception. Their fair runs longer and brings in more visitors than any other—at 3 million, comfortably doubling the next largest states' attendance. So what’s everyone there to see? Quite a bit, judging by the fact that the fairgrounds are large enough to merit gondola tours. The fact that college football games are held on the fairgrounds certainly boosts attendance, but there’s also the Texas Auto Show, featuring new and classic cars, the “Picasso of pumpkin carvers,” and all the usual attractions. 

40. UTAH — Utah State Fair

Location: Salt Lake City, UT
In operation since: 1856
Standout events: Utah kids save their foulest-smelling footwear all year long for the state fair’s Rotten Sneaker Contest, sponsored by Odor Eaters. The winner gets a cash prize, Golden Sneaker award, and entry in the national smelly shoe championships.   

41. VERMONT — Vermont State Fair

Location: Rutland, VT
In operation since: 1846
Standout events: California used to draw state fair crowds by slamming two locomotives together for fairgoers' viewing pleasure. They stopped the train-crash-as-entertainment during WWI, but the tradition lives on in Vermont as the Demolition Derby. Vermont bookends its state fair with grandstand stage demo derbys, with box seats available if you're worried about flying car parts. 

42. VIRGINIA — State Fair of Virginia

Location: Doswell, VA
In operation since: 1854
Standout events: You know them from horror movies, but as art? Each year at Virginia's state fair, there's a chain saw show where an artist uses the whirring blades to turn three-foot logs into sculptures in a matter of minutes.

43. WASHINGTON — Washington State Fair

Meryl Schenker

Location: Puyallup, WA
In operation since: 1900
Standout events: Want to experience cute baby animals in the real world, not just as Internet memes on Buzzfeed? Washington State Fair's Piglet Palace lets you get a look at a litter of tiny pink piglets born during the fair. Just try not to think about the 24,868 pounds of barbecue pork spareribs fairgoers ate during last year's fair.  

44. WEST VIRGINIA — The State Fair of West Virginia

Location: Lewisburg, WV
In operation since: 1924
Standout events: West Virginia's Strongest Mountaineer Competition isn't for the faint of heart. Competitors are judged on events including a truck pull, dead lift, clean and press with a log and stone carry. Note: This isn't a strongman competition—women can compete to be West Virginia's Strongest Mountaineer, too.

45. WISCONSIN — Wisconsin State Fair

Location: West Allis, WI
In operation since: 1851
Standout events: Leading up to the fair, judges tour the state seeking the best of the best for the annual Moo-la-palooza competition to find Wisconsin’s most authentically mooing human. Winners—chosen for realism, style, stage presence and originality—get $1000, a cowprint jacket and golden cowbell trophy. Costumes encouraged. 

New this year is the “Sporkies,” a state fair food contest that encourages exotic creations (above). Several finalists for the Golden Spork award seem to be aiming for the “most creative”—separate from “best tasting”—title, and fairgoers can sample thanksgiving waffles, deep fried PB&J nuggets, and gelato-on-a-stick.

46. WYOMING — Wyoming State Fair and Rodeo

Location: Douglas, WY
In operation since: 1886
Standout events: When Wyoming held its first in 1886, it wasn’t even a state yet. Today’s fair is a bit different than the Territorial Fair. The rodeo, Wyoming Ropefest and Mustang Days—celebrating America’s wild horses—are always highlights, but so is pig wrestling. Teams of four enter a mud-slicked wrestling ring and have just one minute to catch a pig and wrestle it into a barrel. This is an elite event—all teams must first qualify by winning their county fair pig wrestling championship. 

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Little Women
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Louisa May Alcott's Little Women is one of the world's most beloved novels, and now—nearly 150 years after its original publication—it's capturing yet another generation of readers, thanks in part to Masterpiece's new small-screen adaptation. Whether it's been days or years since you've last read it, here are 10 things you might not know about Alcott's classic tale of family and friendship.

1. LOUISA MAY ALCOTT DIDN'T WANT TO WRITE LITTLE WOMEN.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Louisa May Alcott was writing both literature and pulp fiction (sample title: Pauline's Passion and Punishment) when Thomas Niles, the editor at Roberts Brothers Publishing, approached her about writing a book for girls. Alcott said she would try, but she wasn’t all that interested, later calling such books “moral pap for the young.”

When it became clear Alcott was stalling, Niles offered a publishing contract to her father, Bronson Alcott. Although Bronson was a well-known thinker who was friends with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, his work never achieved much acclaim. When it became clear that Bronson would have an opportunity to publish a new book if Louisa started her girls' story, she caved in to the pressure.

2. LITTLE WOMEN TOOK JUST 10 WEEKS TO WRITE.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Alcott began writing the book in May 1868. She worked on it day and night, becoming so consumed with it that she sometimes forgot to eat or sleep. On July 15, she sent all 402 pages to her editor. In September, a mere four months after starting the book, Little Women was published. It became an instant best seller and turned Alcott into a rich and famous woman.

3. THE BOOK AS WE KNOW IT WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN TWO PARTS.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

The first half was published in 1868 as Little Women: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. The Story Of Their Lives. A Girl’s Book. It ended with John Brooke proposing marriage to Meg. In 1869, Alcott published Good Wives, the second half of the book. It, too, only took a few months to write.

4. MEG, BETH, AND AMY WERE BASED ON ALCOTT'S SISTERS.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Meg was based on Louisa’s sister Anna, who fell in love with her husband John Bridge Pratt while performing opposite him in a play. The description of Meg’s wedding in the novel is supposedly based on Anna’s actual wedding.

Beth was based on Lizzie, who died from scarlet fever at age 23. Like Beth, Lizzie caught the illness from a poor family her mother was helping.

Amy was based on May (Amy is an anagram of May), an artist who lived in Europe. In fact, May—who died in childbirth at age 39—was the first woman to exhibit paintings in the Paris Salon.

Jo, of course, is based on Alcott herself.

5. LIKE THE MARCH FAMILY, THE ALCOTTS KNEW POVERTY.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Bronson Alcott’s philosophical ideals made it difficult for him to find employment—for example, as a socialist, he wouldn't work for wages—so the family survived on handouts from friends and neighbors. At times during Louisa’s childhood, there was nothing to eat but bread, water, and the occasional apple.

When she got older, Alcott worked as a paid companion and governess, like Jo does in the novel, and sold “sensation” stories to help pay the bills. She also took on menial jobs, working as a seamstress, a laundress, and a servant. Even as a child, Alcott wanted to help her family escape poverty, something Little Women made possible.

6. ALCOTT REFUSED TO HAVE JO MARRY LAURIE.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Alcott, who never married herself, wanted Jo to remain unmarried, too. But while she was working on the second half of Little Women, fans were clamoring for Jo to marry the boy next door, Laurie. “Girls write to ask who the little women marry, as if that was the only aim and end of a woman’s life," Alcott wrote in her journal. "I won’t marry Jo to Laurie to please anyone.”

As a compromise—or to spite her fans—Alcott married Jo to the decidedly unromantic Professor Bhaer. Laurie ends up with Amy.

7. THERE ARE LOTS OF THEORIES ABOUT WHO LAURIE WAS BASED ON.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

People have theorized Laurie was inspired by everyone from Thoreau to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s son Julian, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. In 1865, while in Europe, Alcott met a Polish musician named Ladislas Wisniewski, whom Alcott nicknamed Laddie. The flirtation between Laddie and Alcott culminated in them spending two weeks together in Paris, alone. According to biographer Harriet Reisen, Alcott later modeled Laurie after Laddie.

How far did the Alcott/Laddie affair go? It’s hard to say, as Alcott later crossed out the section of her diary referring to the romance. In the margin, she wrote, “couldn’t be.”

8. YOU CAN STILL VISIT ORCHARD HOUSE, WHERE ALCOTT WROTE LITTLE WOMEN.

Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts was the Alcott family home. In 1868, Louisa reluctantly left her Boston apartment to write Little Women there. Today, you can tour this house and see May’s drawings on the walls, as well as the small writing desk that Bronson built for Louisa to use.

9. LITTLE WOMEN HAS BEEN ADAPTED A NUMBER OF TIMES.

In addition to a 1958 TV series, multiple Broadway plays, a musical, a ballet, and an opera, Little Women has been made into more than a half-dozen movies. The most famous are the 1933 version starring Katharine Hepburn, the 1949 version starring June Allyson (with Elizabeth Taylor as Amy), and the 1994 version starring Winona Ryder. Later this year, Clare Niederpruem's modern retelling of the story is scheduled to arrive in movie theaters. It's also been adapted for the small screen a number of times, most recently for PBS's Masterpiece, by Call the Midwife creator Heidi Thomas.

10. IN 1980, A JAPANESE ANIME VERSION OF LITTLE WOMEN WAS RELEASED.

In 1987, Japan made an anime version of Little Women that ran for 48 half-hour episodes. Watch the first two episodes above.

Additional Resources:
Louisa May Alcott: A Personal Biography; Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women; Louisa May Alcott's Journals; Little Women; Alcott Film; C-Span; LouisaMayAlcott.org.

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13 Forgotten Sequels to Popular TV Shows
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While sequels can promise bigger and better things to come, sometimes they fall short ... really short. Here are 13 sequels to popular TV shows you probably forgot existed (if you ever even knew they existed at all).

1. THE BRADYS (1990)

After the success of The Brady Bunch during its five-year run on ABC during the early 1970s and in syndication throughout the 1980s, rival network CBS commissioned a sequel series after seeing positive ratings from A Very Brady Christmas, a 1988 made-for-TV reunion movie. Two years later, The Bradys debuted with its original cast, except Maureen McCormick, who declined to reprise the role of Marcia Brady. She was replaced with Leah Ayres. While the original Brady Bunch was a 30-minute comedy, The Bradys was a soapy, hour-long “dramedy,” with adult-themed storylines like Mike starting a career in politics, Marcia battling alcoholism, Bobby becoming paralyzed after a race car accident, and Peter dating an abusive woman. Yikes!

Considering The Bradys's harsher subject matter and themes, the new TV show only lasted for a few episodes in early 1990. CBS aired The Bradys on Friday nights against ABC’s TGIF juggernaut lineup of Perfect Strangers, Family Matters, and Full House. Including A Very Brady Christmas and The Bradys, there were whooping seven TV spinoffs and sequels for The Brady Bunch, including The Brady Kids, The Brady Bunch Variety Hour, The Brady Girls Get Married, Day by Day: "A Very Brady Episode," and Kelly's Kids—which was a “backdoor” pilot that never became a new TV series.

2. THE NEW GIDGET (1986 - 1988)

After the high rating numbers for the 1985 made-for-TV movie Gidget's Summer Reunion, original series producer Harry Ackerman launched a sequel the following year called The New Gidget with actress Caryn Richman in the titular role instead of Sally Field. It still followed Frances Elizabeth “Gidget” Lawrence, who was now grown up and married to her longtime boyfriend Jeff “Moondoggie” Griffin. The pair lived in Santa Monica and still made it to the beach once and a while, despite their busy lives as a travel agent (her) and an architect (him). The New Gidget only lasted for two seasons, which is actually double the original 1960s series. However, the latter is far more popular because it was Sally Field's breakout role.

3. THE MUNSTERS TODAY (1987 – 1991)

After a made-for-TV reunion movie called The Munsters’ Revenge failed to get off the ground, producers Lloyd J. Schwartz and Bryan Joseph created The Munsters Today instead. The new TV show was in full color and took place in 1988, which was 22 years after the black-and-white original went off the air. However, CBS passed on the sequel, so it aired in first-run syndication. The Munsters original cast Fred Gwynne (Herman Munster) and Yvonne De Carlo (Lily Munster) declined to appear on the new TV show, while Al Lewis was not happy he was not considered to reprise the role of Grandpa.

In 2012, NBC commissioned Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies, Hannibal) for a new TV reboot starring Jerry O'Connell as Herman Munster and Portia de Rossi as Lily Munster called Mockingbird Lane. The reboot was eventually canceled, but the broadcast network aired the failed TV pilot as a Halloween special later in the year. In 2017, it was reported that Seth Meyers was reportedly working on an all-new reboot of The Munsters for NBC.

4. THE NEW WKRP IN CINCINNATI (1991 - 1993)

In 1991, nine years after the original WKRP In Cincinnati left the airwaves on CBS, its sequel series called The New WKRP In Cincinnati debuted in syndication. The new TV show brought back many of its original cast, such as Gordon Jump, Frank Bonner, and Richard Sanders, while other cast members dropped in for special guest appearances, like Loni Anderson and Tim Reid. However, with a mixed critical response and the numerous problems of first-run syndicated TV shows (including inconsistent time slots and air dates), The New WKRP In Cincinnati was canceled two years later.

5. NEW MONKEES (1987)

In 1986, The Monkees were at the top of pop culture (again) after MTV aired reruns of the classic 1966 TV show for a new audience. Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, and Davy Jones reunited (minus Michael Nesmith) for a special 20th anniversary tour, while their albums were reissued and a new one was released. In fact, there was so much excitement over The Monkees's revival that Columbia Pictures Television announced a new sequel TV series with a nationwide talent search to find the New Monkees.

After auditioning thousands upon thousands of young hopefuls, Jared Chandler, Larry Saltis, Konstantinos "Dino" Kovas, and Marty Ross (who also played guitar for a power pop band called The Wigs) were selected to star, as well as release a new synth pop-driven, self-titled album to coincide with the premiere of New Monkees in syndication.

Much like the original, the new TV show followed the adventures of a struggling young band that lived together, but the difference being they lived in a giant mansion with a butler, many unexplored rooms—which was the source of said adventures—a diner with a sassy waitress, and a talking computer named Helen.

However, by the time the new TV show and album were released to the public in 1987, The Monkees had become passé again. New Monkees was canceled after just 13 episodes, despite a 22-episode series order. The new album also bombed and failed to garner a single hit.  

6. SANFORD (1980 - 1981)

During the 1970s, Sanford and Son (a remake of the BBC’s Steptoe and Son) was a smash hit for NBC. Although the series was widely popular, it was canceled in 1977 after Redd Foxx left to star in The Redd Foxx Comedy Hour for rival network ABC (which was eventually canceled after only four months). Foxx later came back to NBC for the return of Sanford and Son in 1980.

However, Demond Wilson, who played Lamont Sanford, didn’t want to return, so NBC just centered the sequel series around Fred Sanford and his new business partner Cal Pettie (Dennis Burkley). It was simply called Sanford, while his son Lamont was written out of the show with the explanation that the character moved away to work on the Alaskan pipeline. Unfortunately, Sanford was not nearly as popular as the original Sanford and Son, so it was canceled after two seasons in 1981.  

7. THE NEW LEAVE IT TO BEAVER (1986 - 1989)

After ABC canceled Leave It To Beaver in 1963, rival network CBS brought The Cleavers back in the 1983 made-for-TV reunion movie Still The Beaver. The movie had such positive reviews and ratings, the Disney Channel picked it up for a sequel series the following year, but ultimately, it was canceled in 1985. Cable network TBS later picked up the series and renamed it The New Leave It To Beaver in 1986. It ran for an additional three seasons before it was canceled for good in 1989.  

The New Leave It To Beaver followed a middle-aged Wally (Tony Dow) and Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver (Jerry Mathers ) with their own families and children. After The Beaver divorced his wife, his widowed mother June (Barbara Billingsley) moved in with him to help raise his two sons. Fan favorite Eddie Haskell (Ken Osmond) also returned with his sons, Freddie and Bomber, who were played by Osmond’s real-life sons, Eric and Christian, respectively. Fun fact: A young Giovanni Ribisi also appeared on The New Leave It To Beaver as the character Duffy Guthrie; he was credited as Vonni Ribisi at the time.  

8. TEAM KNIGHT RIDER (1997 - 1998)

In 1997, NBC created Team Knight Rider as a sequel to the hit early 1980s TV show Knight Rider. Instead of a man and his high-tech car, it featured a team of five members with their very own high-tech vehicles called the Foundation for Law and Government (or F.L.A.G.). Although the original was a pop culture hit back in the early 1980s, Team Knight Rider failed to live up to expectations in the late 1990s. It was canceled after one season in first-run syndication in 1998.  

9. MELROSE PLACE (2009)

In 2009, more than 15 years after the massive success of the original Melrose Place on Fox, The CW and producers Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer debuted a new TV show with the same title. The new primetime soap opera, much like the original, followed the lives of several 20-somethings living in a fictional apartment complex in West Hollywood with a cast that included then-pop star Ashlee Simpson-Wentz (now Ashlee Simpson-Ross).

While cast members from the original series—including Josie Bissett, Thomas Calabro, Laura Leighton, Daphne Zuniga, and Heather Locklear as Amanda Woodward—appeared as special guest stars, Melrose Place couldn’t find a devoted audience and it received a mixed critical response. It was canceled after one season.  

10. WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW!! (1985 - 1988)

In 1985, six years after ABC canceled the original What’s Happening!! in 1979, screenwriter Eric Monte created a sequel series called What’s Happening Now!! The new TV show still followed Raj (Ernest Thomas), Dwayne (Haywood Nelson), and Rerun (Fred Berry) living in the neighborhood of Watts in Los Angeles, but now the characters are in their mid-20s instead of teenagers. Both TV shows, which were based on Monte’s coming-of-age film Cooley High, lasted for just three seasons each. Both received higher ratings in syndication than their original runs. Fun fact: Martin Lawrence made his TV debut in What’s Happening Now!!; he played a recurring role during its final season in 1987-88.  

11. DALLAS (2012)

While the original Dallas aired for 13 seasons on CBS from 1978 to 1991, its follow-up of the same name only lasted for three on TNT, from 2012 to 2014. Dallas followed the next generation of Ewing Oil’s family feud with many of the original cast members returning for another go-around. The original Dallas had a big influence on pop culture during the 1980s with its “Who shot J.R.?cliffhanger and ad campaign that fueled its popularity for 13 seasons.  

12. SAVED BY THE BELL: THE COLLEGE YEARS (1993 - 1994)

From the late 1980s through the 1990s, young Americans watched the many adventures of Zack Morris and his friends throughout junior high and high school. While Good Morning, Miss Bliss and Saved By The Bell were staples of Saturday morning programming, Saved By The Bell: The College Years premiered in primetime on NBC in 1993.

Instead of taking the original cast to college, the sequel only followed Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar), A.C. Slater (Mario Lopez), and Screech (Dustin Diamond) as freshmen living in the dorms of the fictional California University. However, Tiffani Amber Thiessen reprised her role as Kelly Kapowski after the pilot received poor ratings. Executive producer Peter Engel regretted the decision not to involve the original cast.  

“I should’ve taken all the six kids to college. I should’ve insisted we take them all and I didn’t. It was my decision and I made a mistake,” Engel admitted to The Wrap in 2016. “I was trying to make it different than Bell and I think we made it too different,” he concluded. “I think we lost some of our—what’s the word?—innocence.”  

Saved By The Bell: The College Years was just too different for longtime fans and young viewers, while also too cheesy and cornball for mature audiences during primetime. It was canceled after only one season in 1994.

Meanwhile, Saved By The Bell: The College Years wasn't the only new TV show from Peter Engel in 1993. Saved by the Bell: The New Class debuted a few months later and was a hit on Saturday mornings for NBC; it lasted for a respectable seven seasons.  

13. STAR TREK: PHASE II (1978)

While Star Trek: The Next Generation is the official sequel to the original series, Star Trek: Phase II was the first planned follow-up, which ultimately went unproduced and unaired. After a growing Star Trek cult following and the surprise success of Star Wars in 1977, Paramount Pictures wanted their own science fiction phenomenon on the big screen, so executives asked Gene Roddenberry to adapt Star Trek into a feature film. However, plans for a movie were later scrapped when executives believed interest couldn’t support two big sci-fi movies, so instead, Roddenberry started working on a new TV series for Paramount Television Services (PTVS was slated to be the “fourth” television network), which ordered a two-hour pilot and 13 episodes that would premiere in 1978.

Many of the original cast members from Star Trek agreed to return, including DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, and Walter Koenig, while Leonard Nimoy turned down the series altogether and William Shatner was just too darn expensive to cast at the time. New characters including a Vulcan named Xon and Captain Willard Decker were created to fill the void. But due to production problems, budget concerns, and the demise of PTVS, the Phase II project was canceled, as its story elements and characters evolved into Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which was released in 1979. Luckily, Roddenberry eventually got his sequel TV series with The Next Generation in 1987. Check out test footage from Star Trek: Phase II above.

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