First Klickitat County Fair is held near Goldendale in autumn 1881.

  • By Paula Becker
  • Posted 5/27/2006
  • Essay 7784
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In autumn 1881, the Klickitat County Agricultural Society holds the first Klickitat County Fair at newly erected fairgrounds about a mile outside the town of Goldendale. The Fair will be held annually for several years.

The early years of settlement by non-Indians in the Klickitat Valley began in about 1852 and were dominated by cattle ranching. But cultivation of the land for agriculture increased slowly but steadily over the next three decades. By the early 1880s most of the land between the Columbia hills and the Simcoe mountain range was under cultivation. 

In 1881 a group of area farmers and Goldendale business owners formed the Klickitat County Agricultural Society with the aim of producing a yearly agricultural fair to promote and celebrate Klickitat County agriculture. They purchased tract of land about a mile outside of Goldendale and built an exhibition pavilion, a race course and grandstand, and stalls for stock. A high fence surrounded the fairgrounds.

Klickitat County residents considered the Fair a great success, and especially timely because farmers were beginning to produce large enough grain crops that the possibility of exporting to a wider market was becoming a reality. An Illustrated History of Klickitat, Yakima and Kittitas Counties, With An Outline Of The Early History of The State Of Washington, published in 1904, described how important this first fair was to educate the farmers about their land's potential:

"The settlers of the county had their attention called for the first time to the importance of their county as a fruit country, when they saw displayed not only hardy varieties, but even the more delicate semi-tropical fruits, all perfect in form and development. Already the necessity for better methods of outside communication was beginning to be felt by the citizens of Klickitat Valley.  Hitherto, the local demand had been sufficient for all products of the county except the stock, which was readily transported overland, but the wheat fields were increasing year by year and it was evident that an outside market would soon be a necessity" (p. 105).
The Klickitat County Fair was held annually during the 1880s. In September 1909 it was re-launched but held only sporadically. It was again re-launched in 1944. After 1949 the newly formed Klickitat County Livestock Association and the Klickitat County Fair Association worked together to present the event. As of 2006 the Klickitat County Fair is held yearly in late August.

Sources: An Illustrated History of Klickitat, Yakima and Kittitas Counties, With An Outline Of The Early History of The State Of Washington (Evansville, Indiana: Unigraphic, [1904] 1977), p. 104; History of Klickitat County ed. by Pete May (Goldendale: Klickitat County Historical Society, 1982), pp. 66, 70.

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