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History of the Clark County Fair

On October 21, 1868, the first Clark County Fair was held in Esther Short Park.  The Clark County Agricultural and Mechanical Society sponsored the event.  

On March 19, 1881 the Agriculture and Mechanical Society trustees incorporated with $5,000 in capital and nine trustees.  They purchased 28 acres of the Durgan farm on Harney Hill for a fair site.  Improvements were made, a 40x60 foot pavilion was built and race track set up.  The fair was held on October 11th.

In 1910 the fair name was changed to the Harvest Show.  It was held at Esther Short Park.  Exhibits were housed in buildings and sixteen tents.  

In 1914 the fair was renamed the Columbia River Interstate Fair.  Opening day crowds numbered 10,000.
 
In 1915 the name of the fair was changed to the Clarke County Fair and Dahlia Show.

On August 30th, 1928 the fair was held in Battle Ground.  Between 3,000 and 4,000 people attended the opening day.  A special event held was a “Maggie” contest to see which woman could throw a rolling pin the farthest.  

In 1929 the fair was held at Bagley Park.  Although 15,000 attended, the fair incurred debt.  The community stepped in and the Pomona Grange and Vancouver Chamber of Commerce convinced the fair’s creditors to reduce the debt by one third.  Fund raising efforts by the community paid off the remaining balance.

In 1941 the Fair Association reorganizes and purchases a permanent site in Battle Ground.  The fair was held September 11-13 and the price of a ticket was 25 cents or $1 for a season ticket.  Time capsules in the shape of eggs were to be placed under the corner stone of the dairy and livestock building.  Local boys being trained for skilled work at the Boeing airplane factory fabricated the eggs out of aluminum.  

1942 – The fair was cancelled due to World War II.  There were dim-out restrictions and rationing problems.  Work did continue on buildings and other improvements.

1943 – 1945 – Victory Fairs replaced the county fair during World War II.  They were held at McLoughlin Heights.

On August 25th, 1947 the Clark County Fair joined with the Battle Ground Community Fair to stage a mutual Fair.

1952 – the fair had outgrown the site in Battle Ground.  Two locations were considered.  The first site was 40 acres offered by John McGillivary located near Fisher Road and Duback.  The second offer was by William Wineberg; the site was the Arthur Moulton farm north of Vancouver.  On August 3rd, 1953 the Fair Board voted to accept the McGillivary site.  But after protest of the Grange concerning racing and pari-mutual betting the board reversed their vote.

On March 28, 1954 fire destroys the buildings at the Battle Ground site.  On August 26th the fair opened for the last time in Battle Ground.

In August of 1955 the fair opens at its new location north of Vancouver.  

In 1957 the “E” Livestock Building was built.  Alcoa aluminum plant furnished the plans and materials.  Through the generous donations of dairy groups, individuals and stock sales, $12,456.65 was collected.  A large group of volunteers helped in the construction.

In 1959 the Dairy Women’s booth was built.  The building was about the size of a phone booth.  Two diary families borrowed the money to buy a milk shake machine.  In 1959 there were 200 dairy families in the county.

In 1962 the horse barn was built with the help of 4-H and adult volunteers.

In 1968, the one hundred year celebration of the fair began with the theme “One Hundred Years’ Experience…A Thousand Years of Vision”.  The fair site was expanded with the purchase of 23 acres adjoining Wineberg property.

In 1972 the Fair Association reorganizes operating the fair.  Public funds from the state could not be allocated to a private organization.  The sum of $88,000 plus interest would have to be reimbursed to the state of Washington.  No monies would be issued from the state until this matter was resolved.  The matter was resolved by deeding the property to the county and the Fair Association would operate the fair as an independent corporation for $30,000 a year for 10 years, with the right for renewal.

The site was enlarged again with the lease of 80 acres through negotiations with the Department of National Resources.  Clark County Fair Mounted Patrol was formed to provide security in the parking lots and patrol the fences.

In 1978 construction continued with a new 4-H demonstration kitchen and covered area for old time machine displays.

Construction on the new horse arena begins on May 1, 1985.  The Executive Horse Council members build 160 stalls saving the fair $60,000.  Men, women and children volunteer 258 hours.  The area is dedicated on August 3rd.

In 1986 the fair was extended to 10 days.

In 1989 the Clark County Fair is named the Centennial Fair in honor of Washington State’s Centennial.  The first Friday free pancake breakfast and admission was established with the following sponsors:  Safeway, KPDX TV and KISN radio.  The first year 14,000 attend the event from 8:00am to 11:00am.

In 1997 the Clark County Fair Association decides to go forward with the amphitheater project, which was completed in 2003.

On December 6, 2003 demolition begins for space for the new exhibition hall.  The grand opening of the exhibition hall was on March 15, 2005.  In 2005 Clark County implemented a contract with the Fairgrounds Site Management Group to manage the property year round.  Clark County Fair Association now manages the Clark County Fair, not the site.

The annual Clark County Fair continues at the Ridgefield site with an annual attendance of over 270,000.  Opening day still features the free pancake breakfast and admission sponsored by Fred Meyer.  

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