Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Here's To The Fair


State and county fairs have been organized in the United States since 1841, when the first such gathering was organized in Syracuse, New York. Food — both its production and enjoyment — has been their centerpiece from the very beginning. The judging of livestock in the U.S. dates to the 19th century.
(click on photos to enlarge)
Credit for the idea of the state fair is often given to Elkanah Watson, a wealthy New England farmer and businessman who showcased his sheep in the public square of Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 1807. Recipe judging is one of the oldest kinds of competition at the fairs, dating to the early 1800s. Butter sculptures, introduced initially by the dairy industry to promote its product, date to 1903.

The Tulsa County Free Fair began in 1903 at the Western Association baseball park at Archer and Boston. As you can see, horse racing was very popular. This postcard, postmarked June 20, 1909 is inscribed with “Fastest race ever run in the southwest, Tulsa 5/29/09 Maud G.” Maud won her owner $1,000 in this race. In 1913, a 16-acre tract of land north of Lewis and Admiral was purchased to provide more suitable grounds when Tulsa landed the International Dry Farming Congress that brought agriculturalists from all over the world. It, too, had a horse track.The Tulsa racetrack came under martial law on April 15, 1917. The governor sent National Guard troops to the racetrack at the Tulsa Fairgrounds on North Lewis, to stop illegal gambling.
Street fairs and carnivals were not a new thing to Tulsa.  

In 1923, thanks to a land donation from J.E. Crosbie, the fair was moved to a portion of the present Expo Square between 15th and 21st Streets.
Passage of a major bond issue of $500,000 provided for the construction of the Art Deco Pavilion in 1931.

Looking east at the Tulsa State Fairgrounds in the 1930s (below). The fairgrounds bordered by Louisville on the west, Yale on the east, 15th and 21st Streets on north and south. The new arena building is at the lower left. The racetrack and stands are at the top. In 1935 the fair went from a county “free fair” to “state fair” status.
Exhibit halls were built to house displays of handicrafts, needlework, canned goods, and other practical arts relating to the home. The midway began to intertwine with carnival shows previously seen with circus shows. Rides, new inventions and oddities became popular.
Here is a 4-room house made in a tree trunk. Interesting.

Or was it...?
The International Petroleum Exposition (IPE) complex was opened in 1966. At the time it was the largest building under one roof. The Tulsa Driller was also permanently installed there at this time. You can even see the old Zingo in this photo:
The midway as I remember it when I was a small kid:
And last: this is a personal photo from around 1973 of my sisters and I having too much fun on a midway ride. This photo was taken by (and published in) the Tulsa World:

*Tulsa TV Memories has the actual Tulsa State Fair theme I am referring to in my title. Click right under the fantastic 1965 fair ticket to listen to Here's To The Fair!
credits: exposquare.com, time.com and okstate.edu


Yogi♪♪♪ said...

Great post. Lots of research for the data and photographs.

Nancy said...

Thanks Yogi! I do love research ;-)

Gina Holloway said...

Hello, great article on the history of the Tulsa State Fair. My family came to Oklahoma in 1968. I will never forget it I was 5 and my dad was an engineer working for Skelly Oil. We stayed with a family on our first trip to Tulsa who took us to the Tulsa Fair. So that huge Driller is forever etched in my mind. Good Memories.

Cindy said...

Hi. Great post! I provided a link to it on my post about my visit to the fair today. See http://cindysclipboard.blogspot.com/2009/10/tulsa-state-fair-1st-2009-visit.html

I love your blog! I love reading the history and seeing the photos of the town I love.

Nancy said...

Thanks Gina and Cindy for the great feedback! It makes the time invested all worthwhile!

Anonymous said...

I have pics of my grandfather (J Fred Lawrence - Police and Fire Commissioner 1948 - 50) and grandmother Mildred riding horses on the fairgrounds back in the 40's or 50's. They lived just down the street at 26th Pl and Pittsburg where he built four homes.
James Lawrence

Karen said...

CoolKay of Countyfairgrounds.net - "I just interviewed the Tulsa 2010 State Fair" It was most interesting to find this post to link the interview to as a lot of people I am sure would like to know a little more about the history of this great fair. Your article was very informative and I really enjoyed the pictures too.

Anonymous said...

Hey Nancy, my name is Matt Gleason. I'm a feature writer for the Tulsa World. I'm working on a piece about the Tulsa State Fair's history. Give me a holler when you get a chance.