History of the Yakima Fair

History of the Central Washington State Fair 

The first fair was held in Yakima in 1892 in a building downtown.  The State of WA had been trying to decide on the location of the State Capitol.  In February of 1892, the Legislature declared Yakima would be the location of the State Fair, while Olympia would remain the Capitol City.  In March of 1893, a bill was passed creating the State Agricultural Fair, land was purchased, and buildings and facilities were erected. thumb_100_8920

By September of 1894, the 120 acre fairgrounds had a grandstand, a racetrack, an exhibit hall, 100 stalls, and a judge’s stand.   These early fairs featured agricultural exhibits from all over the State, and livestock entries.  There were horse races, an auto show, and fireworks displays were popular at night. 

In 1930 and 1931, the Fair was not held due to lack of budgeting.  The Fairs in 1932 – 1936 were not successful, and so the Legislature abolished the State Fair and none were held in 1937 or 1938.  In 1939, a group of people representing agricultural, livestock, and business interests met to discuss the possibility of once again holding a fair in Yakima.  This group of people incorporated as the "Central Washington Fair Association", with the purpose of promoting the livestock and agricultural industries in WA State.  The 1939, 1940, and 1941 Fairs were all successful.  1942 – 1945, all fairs in the State were cancelled because of World War II.  The next Fair was held in 1946, and from then until 1976, it was an annual five day event.  Due to growing crowds and popularity, the Board of Directors decided to extend the Fair to nine days in 1977, and it continued this way until 1996, when a second Sunday was added, making the Fair ten days long.thumb_100_8837

Though attendance at the Fair has grown continually, from an average of 50,000 in the 1920s and 1930s to over 300,000 in the 1980s, the purpose of the Fair has remained constant since the Fair Association was first incorporated in 1939.

From the 1939 Articles of Incorporation filed with the Secretary of State's office: The object and purpose for which this Association is formed is: 

  • For the purpose of promoting, developing, and cultivating an interest in Agriculture and Horticulture in Central Washington.
  • To provide for a Central Washington Fair to be held in Yakima, Washington.
  • To stimulate the interest in boys and girls in farming and farming activities and to provide an opportunity for them to exhibit farm products.
  • To stimulate an interest in farming activities with citizens of the State of Washington regardless of age."

thumb_100_8829Though the Fair has changed a lot since its early years, its purpose still remains the same – to promote and display the products of agriculture and horticulture in the Yakima Valley, and to provide an annual event for the community to come together and share their accomplishments with each other.   Carnival games and rides, food, and commercial exhibits may draw more people to Fair these days than do prize chickens and giant pumpkins, but don’t forget the agricultural history of these community celebrations.  Take a few minutes to pay tribute to the agricultural and horticultural roots of our Central WA State Fair by taking a walk through the barns, the Ag. Building, and the Modern Living Building.