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Historical Perspective

As part of a cultural resource survey completed in September of 2006 for the City of Yakima, Department of Community Development, State Fair Park received a comprehensive documentation of its historical and cultural qualities.  Excerpts from the survey, with commentary provided by the Association Board members and staff, provide perspective of the history of State Fair Park.

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"The first Washington state Fair took place September 24-29, 1894 on the same site that now hosts the annual Central Washington State Fair in Yakima.  This even occurred only five years after Washington gained statehood.  As early as 1889, Yakima County hosted a fair exhibiting fruits, vegetables, grains, and grasses.  A successful three-day Yakima County fair was held in the fall of 1890.  Several hundred dollars in prizes were distributed to exhibitors of stock, fruits, dairy products, vegetables, poultry, mechanical devices, and fine art work.  Another local fair was held in 1892 in downtown Yakima."
 
"The State Fair Act was approved on March 15, 1893, along with a $10,000 appropriation.  In October of the same year, the State purchased 120 acres of land for $10,000.  The land was located about one mile southeast of Yakima's central business district outside of the city limits.  Yakima proved to be an appropriate home for the annual State Fair given its growing importance as Washington's premiere agricultural region."
 
"There was not enough funding to produce a second Washington State Fair in 1895, but the citizens of North Yakima, led by active members of the Commercial Club, put on a local district fair that year. Quoting one of the organizers, W.E. Dickinson, the Tacoma Daily Ledger wrote:  "It will...be a Yakima fair, not a county fair, and will include the same exhibits that were at last year's state fair.  It will have the best horticultural and agricultural show ever exhibited in the state."

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The construction of a permanent exhibition hall (the Horticultural Building) in 1895 was previously planned and budgeted and was completed in time for the local fair.  Designed by prominent local architect William W. deVeaux, the building (now known as the Agricultural Building) was designed in the Beaux Arts style of grand exposition halls that were in vogue at the time.  Inspired by the Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago, deVeaux created an exhibition building worthy of a state fair in terms of scale and design.  Yakima never hosted a world exposition, the Horticultural Building's ambitious design anticipated that the State Fair would serve a significant role in celebrating Washington's agricultural richness and providing an annual venue for recreation and entertainment.  The 1895 fair was a success.  By 1899, the Washington State Fair had all the standard fair components such as the grandstand and racetrack, the great exhibition hall (Horticultural Building), livestock barns, poultry house, tree-lined grounds, picnic areas, an a midway.  The midway's special attractions included "Indian and Squaw Races each day, War Dances, Barbecue, Balloon Ascensions and Parachute Jumps, Trapese and Tight Rope Performances, and an Aquatic Exhibition, the Wonderful Man Fish."


"Nearly one hundred ten years have passed and the Central Washington State Fair continues to be produced every year.  There have been many changes including the development of the SunDome during the 1980's an Yakima County Stadium for minor league baseball.  Yet many of the early structures remain such as the grand Agriculture Building, built in 1895, Pioneer Hall, build in 1927, Livestock barns A thru I, built in the 1930's and 40's, and the Modern Living Building, built in 1937 which comprise a major part of exhibit space during the fair an which facilitate consumer shows, exhibitions and other non-fair events.  Horse racing no longer occurs and a small dirt track for autos is situated in front of the grandstand built in 1060. Since World War II the site was improved, a new Youth Building was partially completed, an access ramp was added to the Agriculture Building, a new Administration Building was built and as previously mentioned, the SunDome, with its multi-purpose arena, and Yakima Stadium were constructed.  In recent years, during the 1990's, about 10 acres were converted to public services facilities by Yakima County, reducing the site to about 110 acres. Today, the facilities and grounds are serviceable yet in need of renovation and improvement.  Renovation of the Modern Living Building, Pioneer Hall, the Agriculture Building and completion of the SunDome banquet room are being undertaken through funding provided by Yakima County. The Economic Development Administration has provided a grant to improve electrical systems in various parts of the grounds." 
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