Clackamas County Fair and Events Center

History

The Clackamas County Fair has been around for over 100 years, and celebrated its centennial birthday in 2006. Below are a few historical photos, and a brief history of the Clackamas County Fair as taken from Where Memories are Born:

 

Clackamas County Fair Association Share Receipt, Dated March 27, 1909 Clackamas County Fair Association April 1909 Share Certificate Resolution no. 2016_127

1907 The first official Clackamas County Fair was held in Gladstone Park, later known as the Seventh Day Adventist campground.
1908 Clackamas County Fair Association organized and began selling membership certificates at $5.00 per share to provide funds to purchase a Canby site.
1909 Fair Association bought a parcel of land for $3,692.50 from the estate of Aaron Wait, paying $60 an acre for cleared land and $40 an acre for un-cleared land. Clackamas County Court put up $250 to help finance grounds development. (The Douglas fir trees that stood on the $40 per acre land still offer shade to fair-goers picnicking in the barbecue grove.)
Earliest buildings were a livestock barn and temporary grandstand. The race track was laid out and graded. The Fair Association operated the fair until 1925.
1915 A 1915 photograph of the fairgrounds shows the original pavilion, a taxi (1913 Model “T” touring car) signed “Fairgrounds 10¢”, a horse drawn water wagon, and a tall ladder from which a little dog did a crowd-thrilling leap into a small net.
A small carnival brought in by Browning’s Carnival included a ferris wheel, a tent housing a “Spanish Bull Fight” and what appear to be several games of chance.
Spectators are lined along the racetrack rail awaiting the next horse race event, with ladies fashionably dressed in long dresses and wide-brimmed hats. Most of the gentlemen wore suits - many of them white suits with matching white shoes and hats.
1924 Original pavilion gave way to present Main Pavilion. Livestock barns and present grandstand were built.
Carl Joehnke, the Fair Association’s long-time secretary, issued an invitation to the public to attend the Fair, describing the facilities thus: “The main pavilion, large and convenient; stock barns of the best and latest model; grandstand, commodious and well-arranged; race track, second to none; and water and lighting systems, perfect”.
1925 State law placed fairs under jurisdiction of counties.
1929 County fair representatives from the Clackamas County and four other counties met and formed an organization called the Oregon County and District Fairs. The organization rather quickly gained members in order to better represent the fairs of Oregon.
The first officer was Herman Chindgren, State Representative and Clackamas County Fair Board Director, who served as president of the OCDF for 22 years.
1930’s Pine grove planted by WPA (1930) under leadership of John Inskeep. In a 1933 legislative maneuver led by Herman Chindgren, the Oregon State Legislature approved pari-mutuel racing in Oregon. The law provided that all monies received from racing went to the fairs. (The racing revenues going to the fairs were reduced by the 1938 legislature to 3/5 of the racing money.)
The Dance Pavilion was the scene of Saturday evening dances, and throngs of dancers young and old flocked to the fairgrounds to waltz and fox trot to the music of some of the area's top bands. The building, after several remodels, is now known as the 4-H Exhibit hall.
The fair survived through the rest of the depression years, but the tight money situation did not allow for appreciable growth.
1941 Herman Chindgren, Fair Board President, issued an invitation to the public stating, “The fair board is sparing no effort in making this year’s fair the most successful to date. Ten great departments, each headed by a young, live, enthusiastic superintendent, will vie for the attention of fair visitors. In addition to these educational features, the very finest entertainment will be provided both day and night.”
The annual fair was curtailed during World War 2 and the event was limited to a youth show.
1946 First peacetime fair held since 1941 with “Clackamas County On Parade” as theme of the full scale exhibition.
1948 Fair Theme: Fire Protection
1950 “Cavalcade of Clackamas County,” produced by a Hollywood production company with a cast of over 300 Clackamas County people, held during annual fair, August 30 - September 1.
1952 Group of volunteers led by George Horning remodeled a machine shed into a 4-H dormitory, and it was used for this purpose for thirty years. (By early 1980’s, motor homes and campers had become so popular that 4-H discontinued using Horning Hall as a dormitory, its members preferring to camp as families and clubs in the pine grove.)
1953 County Court authorized $5,000 for fairgrounds construction providing horse barn, livestock chutes, rodeo arena, reconstructed grandstand and new bleachers.
1955 Two hundred guests were invited to a no-host dinner at the Bolton School, organized by the Fair Board to promote the 1955 annual fair. Menu was baked ham, new potatoes, string beans, salad, rolls with butter, pie a la mode and coffee. Cost of the dinner was $1.00
1956 The Oregon County and District Fairs organization incorporated as a non-profit enterprise named The Oregon Fairs Association. Their objectives were to promote the best interests of fairs in the State of Oregon.
Timber was removed from sections of the east end of the fairgrounds where the Ely Arena and carnival lots now stand.
1956 Fair Theme: Golden Jubilee
1958 First free rodeo held at fairgrounds, produced by Craig Landeen. Rodeos, combined with horse shows and other grandstand shows had been attempted in early 1950’s for which an admission free had been charged. (In 1950, gate admission was 50¢, plus an additional $1.20 for grandstand/rodeo show.)
1963 Fair Theme: I'm A Goin'
1962-64 Riding arena built, later to be named the Ely Arena in honor of long-time Fair Board Member and former County Commissioner, Stan Ely.
1965 Fair Theme: Art To Agriculture
1966 Fair Theme: America The Beautiful
1967 Fair Theme: County Culture
1968 Fair Theme: When I Was Six Years Old
1968-69 Group of volunteers led by Ray Sconce razed old 4-H kitchen and began construction on Cloverleaf Kitchen.
Further changes made in racing laws resulted in racing monies to each fair being reduced to $20,000 per year. This was a serious blow to county fairs.
Bill Gerber, a member of the Clackamas County Fair Board, was elected President of Oregon Fairs Association, and under his leadership the Association put together a Merit Rating program for county fairs. (Twenty years earlier Herman Chindgren had urged the Association to establish some kind of classification system to help protect fairs’ funding from racing monies.)
The program was approved by the legislature, and a County Fair Commission was created to administer the evaluation program, which is essentially still in effect in 1987.
This was a significant turning point for Oregon county Fairs, and a gradual upgrading of fairs has been seen throughout the state.
1969 Fair Theme: Fair Daze
1970 Fair Theme: Fair Of The Century
1971 Fair Theme: Our International Friends
1972 Fair Theme: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow
1972 Fair Theme: Panorama '72 A Blending Of The Years
1973 Fair Theme: Country Fair
1974 Fair Theme: Nature's Bounty
1975 Fair Theme: Legend Of The Land
1976 Fair Theme: Bicentennial Salute
1977 Fair Theme: Wide World Of Wood
1977-78 A Federally funded Economic Development Grant, along with several monetary and labor donations, including the Clackamas County Homebuilders Association, where instrumental in some extensive improvements regarding the Main Pavilion. The mezzanine was transformed into a second floor along with the installation of restrooms.
1978 Fair Theme: Recreation Unlimited
1979 Fair Theme: Salute to Agriculture
1980 Clackamas County voters approved 6% transient room tax, (hotel/motel tax) with 5/6 of proceeds to go to the operation, maintenance and improvement of the Clackamas County Fairgrounds. (The distribution formula was changed in 1985, with a lesser amount going to the fair, and a larger portion of promotion of tourism in the county.)
1980 Fair Theme: An Old Fashioned Fair
1980-81 New rodeo equipment and bleachers installed. Several major maintenance projects-roofs, foundations, paint, electrical-accomplished with proceeds of transient room tax.
1981 Fair Theme: An Old Fashioned Fair With 75 Years of Progress
1982 Fair Theme: An Old Fashioned Love A Fair
1983 Fair Theme: Love-A-Fair '83
1983-84 Major remodeling upgrades and restroom additions to Horning Hall and the 4H Exhibit Hall are completed.
Agricultural Crops building erected in fir grove.
1984 Fair Theme: Love-A-Fair '84
1985 Fair Theme: Something To Crow About!
1985-86 Kitchens are added to the Main Pavilion and Horning Hall. Additional bleachers are built at the rodeo grounds.
Barn 6 totally destroyed by May 5, 1985, fire.
1986 Fair Theme: Something To Crow About!
1986-87 Remodeling of the Poultry & Rabbit buildings is completed. A new highway sign was installed on 99E. A beautification project of the fairgrounds include a partial underground sprinkler system, concrete walkways and new flower planters.
Main Lawn and Grandstand restrooms razed and replaced with upgraded facilities.
Fire sprinkler system installed in grandstand.
1987 Fair Theme: Where Memories Are Born
1988 Fair Theme: Head Over Heels In Fun
1989 Fair Theme: The Fair-est of Them All
1990 Fair Theme: Its Magic
1991 Fair Theme: Cheers - 85 Years
1992 Fair Theme: It's Tops!
1993 Fair Theme: The "Living End" Of The Oregon Trail
1994 Fair Theme: Just the Ticket
1995 Fair Theme: Just Be-Cows
1996 Fair Theme: Best in the West
1997 Fair Theme: A Family Tradition
1997-98 The original rodeo arena grandstands are demolished. Grandstands were rented until plans could be drawn for new ones.
1998 Fair Theme: Where Dreams Begin
1999 Fair Theme: It's A Star Spangled Fair and Rodeo
2000 The plans for a new covered grandstand for the Rodeo Arena are completed on April 18th. The City of Canby approves the plans on May 4th with a ground breaking ceremony taking place a few days later. The grandstands are completed in time for the Clackamas County Fair, with a seating capacity of 1, 096 guests, bringing the total approximately seating to 4,000.
2000 Fair Theme: It's A Classic
2001 Fair Theme: A Treasured Tradition
2002 Fair Theme: The Hottest Fair Around
2003 Fair Theme: The Hottest Fair Around…the coolest place to be!
2004 Fair Theme: Party with the Animals
2005 Fair Theme: Jam Packed with Fun
2006 100 YEARS OF THE CLACKAMS COUNTY FAIR! This milestone birthday is celebrated with cake, commemorative coins and special performances each day of the fair.
2006 Fair Theme: 100th Fair Centennial Celebration – It'll Be a Blast!
2007 The Build-a-Barn committee held its first fundraiser. Their efforts are going towards building a new livestock barn.
2007 Fair Theme: The Six Best Days of summer!
2008 Fair Theme: Hot Fun in the summertime!
2009 After years of being known as the Canby Fairgrounds, the name is formally changed to the Clackamas County Fair and Event Center. A digital sign replaces the previous sign on Highway 99E.
2009 Fair Theme: Celebrate the Tradition
2010 Fair Theme: It's Fun, It's Fabulous, It's Fair!
2011 Fair Theme: Ribbons, Rides & Rodeos – 105 Years of Fun!
2011 Ken Hostetler Construction, Inc. was awarded the winning bid to build the Main Lawn Restrooms, which also include a small meeting room. Demolition began mid-October with the project being completed in mid-November.
The Contract with Ken Hostetler Construction, Inc was signed October 13th at the monthly Fair Board Meeting. Demolition of the old restrooms started October 17th and was completed mid November.
2012 Fair Theme: Fair Sights, Rodeo Nights & Midway Lights
2012 New Main Lawn Restrooms were completed in April, and given the name "Main Lawn Complex". The new restrooms included state of the art automatic flushing toilets, family friendly restrooms, and a room with it's own private bathroom for meetings, bridal parties, etc.
2013 Fair Theme: Fun for the Whole Herd!
2014 Fair Theme: We're Serving Up Fun!
2014 In February, over 8 inches of snow fell in Canby, creating too much weight on the roof of the 1924 Livestock Barn. The Livestock Barn was declared unsafe and the barn was deconstructed from June 25-July 19. T-Structures were rented and used in place of the barn during the County Fair in August.
2015 Fair Theme: Fair Fever!
2016 Fair Theme: Spectacular Fun for Everyone!
2017 On Arbor Day, 43 Commemorative Trees were planted, part of the beautification of Canby, inspired by the members of the Canby Garden Club, Cathy Rae Smith and Vern Hulit. Individuals purchased and planted their trees, alternating Dogwood and Crepe Myrtle. Plaques were also placed at each tree. Seven plaques are in remembrance of Fallen Clackamas County police officers.

Fair Theme: 5 Days of Fun! The Fair Board unanimously votes to change the length of the fair from six days to five days.

The decrypted old Rodeo Announcer Stand is torn down and rebuilt by volunteers. The new announcer stand is three times the size of the previous stand.

After 60 years of being known as the Canby Rodeo Arena, a name change has taken place. Traverso Arena, in memory of long time rodeo and fair supporter Bob Traverso was chosen after the Fair Board and Rodeo Committee made a proposal to the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners for the name change in a 2016 meeting. The formal announcement of Clackamas County Resolution No. 2016-127 was made on August 5, 2017 during the annual Clackamas County Fair and Canby Rodeo Kick-Off Party. A new sign has been installed with the name Bob Traverso Arena. Bob served 17 years on the Clackamas County Fair Board and was also Fair Board President. He was the driving force behind renovations that were made to the rodeo arena facility and is also given credit for securing stable funding for the fair. During Bob’s 22 year reign with the rodeo committee, he worked hard at promoting the rodeo amateur level to one of the top tiers in the area, earning the Professional Rodeo Cowboy’s Association 2013 PRCA Remuda Award.
A true patriot, Bob was a decorated Vietnam War Veteran, earning a Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for saving the lives of his fellow brothers in his platoon. Because of his faithful service to his community and country, it is an honor to have the rodeo arena bear his name.

In September, a huge fire broke out in the gorge, known as the Eagle Creek Fire. Approximately 144 animals and fowl were evacuated and boarded at the Clackamas County Fairgrounds and Event Center. The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Posse monitored the animals around the clock. Many businesses donated feed, hay and other supplies.