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:
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
1977-78 – Federally funded Economic Development Grant received for remodel of Main Pavilion, allowing for extensive improvements, including restructuring the mezzanine into a second floor. Several donations received to help complete project. Labor for installation of restrooms was provided by members of Clackamas County Homebuilders Association, who had earlier donated their services to several other projects.
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 to promotion of tourism in the county.)
1980-81 – New rodeo equipment and bleachers installed. Several major maintenance projects – roofs, foundations, paint, electrical – accomplished with proceeds of transient room tax.
1983-84 – Extensive remodel of Horning Hall and 4-H Exhibit Hall, including restrooms in both buildings.
Agricultural Crops building erected in fir grove.
1985-86 – Kitchens added to Main Pavilion and Horning Hall. Additional bleachers built at rodeo grounds.
Barn 6 totally destroyed by May 5, 1985, fire.
1986-87 – Poultry/Rabbit building remodeled. New highway sign erected on 99E. Extensive grounds beautification including partial underground sprinkler system, concrete walks and planters.
Main Lawn and Grandstand restrooms razed and replaced with upgraded facilities.
Fire sprinkler system installed in grandstand.
And More Recently.................
1997-98 – Rodeo Arena grandstands are torn down. Grandstands were rented until plans could be drawn for new ones.
2000 – April 18th, plans were completed for new covered grandstands for the Rodeo Arena. The plans were approved by the City of Canby on May 4th, with a ground breaking soon to follow. The new grandstands were completed in time for the County Fair in mid-August, with the capacity to hold 1,096 people. This brought the total possible capacity up to 4,000 people.
2006 - 100 YEARS OF THE CLACKAMAS COUNTY FAIR! The Clackamas County Fair celebrates its 100th Fair with commemorative coins, special performances, and birthday cake everyday of the fair.
2007 – The Build-a-Barn committee held its first fundraiser. Their efforts are going towards building a new livestock barn.
2009 – The Canby Fairgrounds changes its name to the Clackamas County Event Center. A new sign is erected along Highway 99E. The Main Pavilion also underwent some renovations.
2011 - The Clackamas County Event Center accepted proposals for the construction of new restrooms on the Main Lawn. Proposals were accepted from August 1st to August 31st at 2pm, at which point accepted proposals were turned over to committee to score and select the winning proposal.
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.