On September 24 and 25, 1937, the first modern Lincoln County Fair is held in Davenport. The fair is referred to as the first annual Lincoln County Pomona Grange and 4-H Club Fair and is an expansion of earlier 4-H fairs in Lincoln County. Fred Magin of Rocklyn is elected fair president, a position he will hold for 17 years. With the exception of a hiatus during World War II, the Lincoln County Fair becomes an annual event.
From 1899 until at least 1904, Davenport was home to an early version of the Lincoln County Fair. Residents formed a corporation with $10,000 worth of capital stock and created a racetrack and several buildings. By 1937 this earlier fair had been defunct long enough that the Davenport Times-Tribune referred to the modern event as being the first.
Front Page News
The Davenport Times-Tribune carried frequent announcements about the 1937 fair in the weeks leading up to the event. The front page of the paper's September 16, 1937 edition informed readers:
"A parade will be held at 1 p.m. Friday led by the Wilbur band, and will include livestock, floats, and other exhibits. A similar parade is planned for Saturday afternoon and will include a pet parade, led by another high school band. All boys and girls who have pets that they would like to lead or carry in the Saturday parade should notify the secretary of the fair association, or be at hand at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
Indications are that there will be scores of livestock and agricultural exhibits for the fair. Feed troughs, pails, and necessary feed should be brought by those exhibiting livestock although it is possible that feed may be secured locally" ("County Fair To Open Sept. 24 With A Parade").
On September 23, with all in readiness, the Davenport Times-Tribune reported, "Present indications are that 14 sub-ordinate Granges, 12 4-H clubs, four Home Economics clubs, and four other organizations" would be participating (September 23, 1937).
Prizes and Parties
Everyone who purchased an advance ticket was entered in a drawing for a $35 set of silverware. The Odd Fellows hosted a dance at their lodge each evening of the fair, with the Glen-Norman band of Sprague providing the dance tunes. The Greater Fairways Carnival Company held the carnival concession. The week before the fair, the Davenport Times-Tribune stated "This is reported to be one of the largest carnival companies ever visiting this region, and those who saw the carnival at Odessa last week report it was exceptionally good" (September 16, 1937). The outfit had five rides, 15 games, and food booths.
Rae Russell, a nutritionist from Washington College Collage (now University) in Pullman, and Adams County Extension Agent George C. Burckhalter served as judges for the agricultural and home economics competitions, assisted by Con S. Maddux, Madeline McGuire, and a judging committee. Prizes ranged from $3.00 for the first place winner in the beef cattle category to 50-cents for placing first in the Dresser Scarf, Pillow Case, or Patched Garment categories. A third-place finish in the Apron, Shorts, Blouse, or Brassiere categories in the Advanced Sewing competition netted the entrant 10-cents. Prizes worth a total of $700 were awarded over numerous categories. The Davenport Commercial Club and Lincoln County provided funds for the 1937 event.
On September 30 the Davenport Times-Tribune recapped the fair in a glowing report:
"Success far beyond the fondest hopes of its sponsors is only a mild way of describing the first annual Lincoln County Pomona Grange 4-H Club fair last Friday and Saturday ... more than 5000 persons, it is estimated, viewed the exhibits during the two days. Ideal weather prevailed both days ... . While all of the exhibits were well worth viewing many times, the Grange booths were particularly beautiful. The North Star Grange won first place with a marvelously decorated booth that would have won a prize at any fair in the land" ("Large Crowds In Attendance At County Fair").
Livestock at the first fair was exhibited in a 45- by 75-foot tent behind the Richardson Implement Company on Morgan Street. Exhibits were displayed in the Claude's Service Station buildings. The Red Cross, Boy Scouts, Women's Christian Temperance Union, and County Welfare Office groups were housed in the fire station section of city hall.
In 1938 this makeshift exhibition-space arrangement was replaced with a 103- by 30-foot main exhibit hall and a 160- by 30-foot livestock barn. Each town in the county sent a princess to the 1938 event. Davenport's Jean Chase was chosen queen.
In 1947 a large structure was moved from the recently deactivated Ephrata Army Air Base to the Lincoln County fairgrounds. This building became the fair's dance hall, auditorium, and kitchen. Over the next several years, a fenced rodeo arena, stables, and exhibit areas were constructed.
Fair events today (2006) include the Bull-A-Rama (bull riding rodeo events), the Rough Stock Jackpot Rodeo, a costume contest for horses and goats, 4-H competitions, a parade, carnivals rides, and entertainment. The Professional Western Rodeo Association sanctions the Lincoln County Fair's rodeo events. As of 2006, an average of 5,000 people attend the four-day Lincoln County Fair each August.