State Fairs.Kansas has never had an official state fair. If any aid has been extended by the state for such purposes the enterprises receiving it have been private ones. The earliest of the state fairs were held under the direction of the State Agricultural Society in various towns over the state, Leavenworth having the distinction of holding the first one from Oct. 6 to 9, 1863. This exhibition, held while the Civil war was at its height, was a successful one considering the fact that many exhibitors who usually take an interest in such undertakings were in the army. The agricultural and live stock display, together with the products of Kansas manufacture displayed at that time, was a very creditable one. The initial fair was well attended and was a success financially.
No attempt was made to hold fairs in 1864 and 1865, the unsettled condition during the last days of the Civil war being responsible. In 1866 and 1867, the second and third fairs under the auspices of the agricultural society were held at Lawrence. These also were well attended and were considered a success. In 1868 the state fair was held at Leavenworth, followed by others at Lawrence in 1869, Fort Scott in 1870, Topeka from 1871 to 1873, and Leavenworth in 1874. From 1875 to 1880 no state fairs were held. In 1881 the Kansas State Fair Association was organized and the first annual fair under its direction was given at Topeka from Sept. 12 to 17. T. C. Henry, of Abilene, was president; William Griffenstein, of Wichita, vice-president; George Y. Johnson, of Topeka, secretary; Joab Mulvane, of Topeka, treasurer, and T. J. Anderson, of Topeka, general superintendent. This fair was one of the largest ever held in the state. A monster soldiers' reunion was held in connection with it, 41 bands from over the state being a part of the attraction. This association held annual fairs during 1882, 1883 and 1884. The following year no fair was held.
In 1886 some Topeka men took hold of the project and under the title of "Kansas Fair Association" gave an exhibition that fall. In 1887 the Kansas State Fair Association was again revived, holding fairs annually from 1887 to 1893. Kansas was again without a state fair until 1903 when the Kansas State Exposition company was organized, and it gave exhibitions in 1903, 1904 and 1905. In 1910 the Kansas State Fair Association was again reorganized, holding successful fairs during 1910 and 1911. An effort was made to hold a state fair at Hutchinson under the auspices of the Central Fair Association in 1908, and the venture met with so much encouragement that the fairs were repeated in 1909, 1910 and 1911.
In 1909 Topeka and Shawnee county voted $50,000 for the erection of permanent buildings on the fairgrounds in the capital city. The adequacy and permanency of these buildings for exhibition purposes have attracted attention among fair exhibitors all over the central west, and has proved to be money well expended. "Few of the older and larger state fairs in the entire country have any more or better permanent buildings for the display of all kinds of exhibits than the Topeka fair," and this fact should have some weight with the legislature, which should provide for an annual fair in its capital city, as is done in nearly all the older states. During the session of the legislature of 1911 an effort was made to secure an appropriation for a state fair but so many localities aspired to the honor of holding it that the measure was voted down.Pages 755-757 from volume II of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed July 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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