The Central Washington Fair Association was created by legislative authorization in 1892. In 1939 the Association became a self-supporting 501(c)3 not-for-profit mutual benefit corporation that exists, "primarily for the promotion of the agricultural, horticultural and animal husbandry interests of the greater Pacific Northwest." Originally designated as Washington's State Fair, the annual Central Washington Fair has been held every year since 1892, with the exception of one year during the Great Depression and four years during World War II wherein, during 1942 to 1945, the property was used by the U.S. Army in support of the war effort. The annual Central Washington Fair represents one of the most successful fairs in the Pacific Northwest.
While the annual ten (10) day Fair continues to honor its founding values as an agricultural exhibition and celebration, its production profile has modified, placing greater emphasis on consumerism and entertainment. During the non-fair season State Fair Park facilitates sports, entertainment, consumer shows, festivals, community events and special events, meetings and banquets. These non-fair activities may or may not be revenue producing in context of retained earnings. However, each event or activity benefits the community and region in a number of social and economic ways. Given an historical perspective, and considering the future, the Central Washington Fair Association recognizes that economic stability, solely on the basis of an annual fair, is not sustainable. Thus there is a need to define and implement new events and undertake essential capital improvements that strengthen enterprise capacity and enhance overall economic performance.
Over the past 20 years, major capital investments, including development of the Yakima Valley SunDome and Baseball stadium, have advanced State Fair Park's production capabilities. In recent years, minor site, utility and facility improvements have occurred. Currently the Association is engaged in $2.4 million in electrical upgrades and in 2010 anticipates implementing a $3.8 million facilities renovation project.
State Fair Park is located in the City of Yakima, Yakima County, Washington in the very center of the State. The property is in close proximity to Interstate 82, which is the main transportation corridor connecting Salt Lake City, Utah, Boise, Idaho and the Seattle/Tacoma/Everett metropolitan area. State Fair Park is in an area of intense agricultural production including truck crops, grains, fruits, berries, wine cultivation, outdoor recreation, boating, hiking, hunting, fishing, equestrian and cultural and historical interpretation.
The 110-acre State Fair Park currently offers 170,000 square feet of indoor exhibit space within seven buildings and 11 acres of outdoor space for exhibits and special events. The site typically accommodates about 400 commercial exhibits and 65 food and beverage concessionaires. The on-site RV Park accommodates 210 units and there is parking for nearly 4,000 vehicles. The multi-use complex facilitates 425 event days each year, hosting early 1.0 million people.
The Central Washington Fair Association consists of 205 paid members largely chosen from the community, including an 11-member Board of Directors which provide policy and management oversight. The Fair Association employs officers, management and operations and maintenance staff. Currently, there are 23 full-time employees and the Association typically hires up to 450 temporary and part-time employees to facilitate operations of the annual Fair and other activities held at State Fair Park. In addition, the Bears Baseball organization employees 8 full-time and 39 seasonal personnel for its sports operations. The total full-time equivalent (FTE) employment at State Fair Park currently stands at 61.
Policy discussions among Board members and staff are focused on developing State Fair Park in a manner that advances its business and service performance to its highest and best capacity. Through its own resources and partnerships, with Yakima County, the State of Washington, Washington State University, federal agencies and private entities, the Association will develop additional activities with an emphasis on agriculture, international trade, enterprise recreation and education. Cash flow realized from the pending investments and development program, currently being defined, will be reinvested into State Fair Park facilities with the purpose of strengthening social and economic conditions, advancing business development and service benefits in the region. This effort is being advanced through formation of a Master Development Strategy now in progress.
Key goals fundamental to the State Fair Park Master Development Strategy are to:
Establish formation of Agri-Fair of the Americas, an international Agricultural Exposition & World Symposium, and other events, that enhance year-round business utilization, attendance, per-capita values and area economies.
Define site improvements and land uses that will enhance the brand of State Fair Park, improve production of the annual Central Washington Fair and facilitate operations for all related business units of the Association.
Implement a capital investment program that will renovate existing as well as develop new facilities that sustain event production. And, create a new business and economic performance environment that increases operating revenue and retained earnings capacity within State Fair Park's business units.
Over the decade, State Fair Park will engage in a development program of major proportions that will establish new activities through formation of strategic partnerships and maximize use of the site, and by capitalizing on existing infrastructure, identity strengths, use diversity and its location.
A priority objective of State Fair Park is to implement Agri-Fair of the Americas through public and private partnerships, and the cooperation of government, universities, agribusiness and agricultural industries. This will result in an institutionalized forum for increasing domestic and international business through education within the trade regime, as well as, foster trade relations among countries of the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa. A Sample of the programmatic content of Agri-Fair of the Americas is outlines below.