Logan County’s first attempt at a county fair was in 1888, when on June 13, of that year, an association was organized and incorporated by H. C. Sherman, F. S. Lewis, R. J. Patterson, T. L. Watson, A. F. Spoor, John Tobin, W. H. Schenck, A. O. Tagader, Oscar Trego, and J. A. Taylor. At this fair the exhibits included “corn that was two thousand years old, alligators and other unusual features.”
Special prizes to the farmer taking best care of his premises were offered by state senators and local people.
Between the first fair and the present one in Logan County is a wide gap—so wide that those remaining who promoted the first one, only vaguely recall its details. Little can be learned of the first one nor of the second which was perfected in the year 1897 by George A. Henderson, George E. McConley and H. C. Sherman.
For a few years the fair was held across the U. P. Railroad track, opposite Sterling, where are now the feed and railroad yards. The town was not troubled with long strings of freight cars in that day. The passenger station was located about midway between the present freight depot and the passenger station. It was no trouble to get across the track to attend the fair, which was held in a tent. Automobiles were unknown. Premiums ranged from one dollar down to fifty cents. Outside the tent, pens were built for swine and sheep, and horses were kept in nearby barns. Homer Rogers, the ticket seller for the first fair, says that the sheep exhibit consisted of a dozen or so, and that there were “seven hogs and three pigs.” The admission to the fair was fifteen and twenty-five cents, and although the grounds were not fenced there was no difficulty in collecting fares. Probably fifteen hundred people from over and outside the county were in attendance.
On later dates the fair was held on a vacant lot north and west of the present Junior High school, on the J. C. Penny store site in an empty building, and once on North Second Street. In the spring of 1911 the race track was laid out by William House and W. E. Whittier. The following year the grandstand was built.
In 1914 the Logan County Fair and Amusement Park Association was organized, with G. H. Green as president and C. b. Timberlake, secretary. Other officers were: T. A. Watson, vice-president; C. M. Morton, treasurer; John Lutin, general manager grounds and buildings; C. F. Smith, assistant secretary; T. K. Propst and Philip Held, directors.
The movement was led by Mr. Timberlake, who took up the proposition of the sale of stock by which the organization was enabled to purchase and improve permanent grounds. The response was generous and prompt, making it possible to hold the first fair under the new management in the fall of this first year. The grounds purchased were known as Propst’s Park, and were purchased from the owner, S. R. Propst. In the first premium list booklet containing seventy pages, is found the following paragraph in the formal announcement of the Association:
“Fairs are timekeepers which mark the progress of communities. They record our advancement. They stimulate the energy, enterprise and intellect of our people. They go into the home. They broaden and brighten the daily life of our people. They open storehouses of information to all of our citizenship. Every fair, great or small, has helped to some onward step. Comparision of ideas is always educational and helpful, strengthening the brain and hand of man.”
After the fair has been operated two years by this organization the Colorado legislature passed a law making it legal for the county commissioners to operate agricultural fairs, and the association surrendered the field to that body. Since that time the county commissioners have had the management of Logan County fairs.
Under the new management C. J. Funk was appointed manager, serving from 1917 to 1921. J. H. King served from 1921 to 1926. The present manager, H. A. Sandhouse, succeeded Mr. King.
In 1926 the cowboys’ reunion was inaugurated as feature of the fair, under the direction of C. J Funk and is to be an annual affair that all the cowboys in northeastern Colorado look forward to. In the parade of 1927 were the oldest and youngest cowboys in the county, W. S. Hadfield, 88, and little Roy Travis Johnson, 5 years old, all togged out in his cowboy outfit.
In 1927 state days of Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska were started and put on as successful events. In many instances it was a happy reunion of friends that had not met for years. In the program of these days the chairmen were R. H. Swinney, Missouri; John R. Coen, Iowas; H. D. Alford, Nebraska.
The attendance at the 1927 fair exceeded all previous years, the gross receipts being increased about $4,000 showing that the fair is a growing institution in Logan County. The livestock exhibit exceeded those of many state fairs, there being 261 head of cattle, 153 horses and mules, 535 head of hogs and 761 of pultry.
In 1926 the community exhibits were divided into two classes, one for irrigated and one for dry-land crops. The county has twenty communities and each year is represented by eight to ten community agricultural booths representing women’s work.
The total premiums offered in all departments is about $10,000.00, the entertainment expenses as equal amount.
The prize winning entries are selected for the general county exhibit at the state fair each year, and win many first prizes. Among these are the exhibits of the boys’ and girls’ clubs of the county.
“For a county year after year to win first place at a state fair,” says the Sterling Advocate of January 3, 1925, “should be abundant proof of the agricultural ascendency of that county. If that rule is a fair one, then there can be little doubt that Logan County is Colorado’s champion agricultural district. So long has the county stood at the head of the lists for the Colorado State fair, that second or third place now would seem a humiliating defeat.”
The fair ground is the scene of many other gatherings, picnics, etc. In 1926, a historical pageant, depicting the principal events of the history of the county, was put on by the schools under the general chairmanship of Mrs. Anne Rogers, principal of the Junior High school, assisted by the teachers, parents and different local clubs and other organizations. The performance was most spectacular, and highly educational, and was participated in by hundreds of school children of the county, who will never forget some of the outstanding events in their county’s history.
In 1959, the present day fair grounds were built across from Sterling Middle School.