The first fair held in Pacific County took place in the Pioneer block of Broadway on the football grounds in South Bend, Washington. According to an article from the South Bend Journal of 1896 the far was held September 23, 24 and 25, 1896, and was organized by Timothy Bailey, E.E. Lilly, R.D. Handy, S.H. Bell and F.A. Hazeltine.
The first day featured “Old Settlers” recounting their experiences as the sheriff, oystermen, and the first and only woman in Pacific County.
Exhibits included livestock in pens, a desk made from local curly maple and yew wood, an 1860 pound horse, 100 pound pumpkin, canned salmon, flowers, apples, peaches, vegetables, a star fish and an oyster eating contest.
It was the only fair in the state without a deficit. A total of $38.10 was left in the treasury to be divided by the winners. Most of the money was never claimed and provided a starter for the next year.
The following years saw the start of local fairs throughout the county. Some were held in Raymond, Chinook, Long Beach, Lebam, Frances, and Menlo. These fairs were often held in local schools and school grounds. In the 1920’s a Loving Cup was presented to the best fair. The Long Beach Fair won it three years in a row. As transportation improved these fairs began to consolidate until there was one fair.
The year 1921 was the first for the fair in Menlo, Washington, which makes 75 years as the site for the fair (1996). This was the first fair to exhibit cattle, swine, and goats as well as all the other types of exhibits. Exhibits were in the NEW cannery building, which is used today to house the commercial exhibits.
The Menlo Improvement Club was vital to this first endeavor. Their food booth sold hamburgers made on a pancake gridle for five cents. Some of the exhibitors were Joe Crawford, Bues Brothers, C.P. Dobler and Ed Halvorsen.
In 1938, The Menlo Fair’s name was changed to the Pacific County Fair. Officers were Leon Parsell, E.H. (Joe) Crawford, R.H. Cole and Aaron Butz. There was a gradual increase in the physical size of the fair as the exhibits increased with participation of the Granges, 4-H, FFA and local service organizations. There was a small shed that held two cows exhibited by Don Vetter and John Mandel and to pigs by Zeb Dobler’s dad and a few rabbit hutches.
In 1954, five or six acres were purchased, some of it from the Cornell family of which long time fair worker Betty Gauerke is a member. About this time a building belonging to the Co-op was moved across the road to the fairgrounds to house the Valley Booster club. Prior to this time they sold food and played Bingo in a tent.
The year 1958 saw major growth with the addition of the Vashon building, so named because it was a barracks transported from Vashon Island. The Darigold feed store was donated to the fair and moved across the road and is presently the food and hobby building.
In 1962 the horse barn was built. The grandstand was built in 1964 and enlarged in 1965. Black top was also laid in 1965. In 1966, the pig barn (now the dog and cat building) was built. In 1971 a roof was put on the grandstand and a permanent Lions Club building erected. In 1969, a covered cattle show arena was built. The restroom was built in 1975.
Then in 1977 the Poultry building and the hog, sheep and goat pens added to the outside of the barn. The new office was built in 1978. In 1984 the addition to the commercial building was built. In 1992, the new Horse barn was built. 1995 was the end of the Vashon building.
A ramp was built to the Valley Booster club building, the restroom was made handicap accessible. Electrical updating has been going on the last four years. We hope you will see a replacement for the Vashon building, freshly painted buildings and a new horse arena fence this year.
The Pacific County Fair Board looks forward to your participation and enjoyment of the 100-year heritage of family fun and education. Some of the surnames of the original organizers and workers of the fair still appear in the list of workers and exhibitors today. Mr. & Mrs. Frank Habersetzer are listed on the 1921 Frances Fair committee. His nephew Dave and wife Margaret Habersetzer are the fair managers of the 1996 Fair.
In 1996 the present Fair Board members were: June Karlis, president; Luvirla Robinson, vice president; Margaret Olsen, Lillian Akers, Buddy Warren, Patty Potts, Lori Ashley, John Gruginski and Bruce Gardner, directors.