Cowlitz County Fair
July 24, 25, 26 & 27
The History of the Cowlitz County Fair~
On September 3rd and 4th 1937 the Cowlitz Valley Fair was held for the first time in Catlin Park, beginning a tradition that has lasted seventy-five years and continues on to this day as the Cowlitz County Fair. With the exception of the four years during World War II, the annual fair has provided such stimulating and amusing entertainment as a milking contest between civic leaders from Longview and Kelso held the very first day of that very first fair. Contestants included Kelso Mayor W.E. Chinn, Kelso Kiwanis President Thomas H. Van Noy, President E.G. Ditlersen and Secretary Eugene Crumb of the Kelso Chamber of Commerce VS Longview Mayor John P. Bell, Longview Kiwanis President Verne DeVilbiss, President J.L. Norris and Secretary L.K. Martini of the Longview Chamber of Commerce. The winner was Dr. J.L. Norris of Longview.
Other events of the day included the livestock judging contest and the Home Economics judging event. There were fair exhibits on clean easy milkers, grange feeds, grange flour, international trucks, batteries, tires, and J.I. Case Farm Machinery. The first day centered on farms and gardens. The Rose Valley Grange won first in the Grange exhibit division with a variety of farm produce. Pleasant Hill was 2nd and Kalama 3rd. The Judges were Mr.& Mrs. Heye Meyers of Vancouver.
COWLITZ COUNTY FAIR FOR THE 1st TWENTY-FIVE YEARS 1937 – 1962
Our fair began as The Cowlitz Valley Fair held at Catlin Park. But it didn’t stay put. The location moved to 15th Avenue and Ocean Beach Hwy in 1941, next to 7th Avenue and the old LP&N railway in 1942, then to Saddle Club Park in Longview at 14th and Baltimore in 1946, back to 7th Avenue in 1947, and finally to the present location in 1950. During this time the fair underwent two additional name changes: The Cowlitz County Fair in 1946 and The Columbia Empire Fair in 1949. There were no fairs nationwide from 1941 -1945 by government order due to WWII.
Right from the beginning the fair was a family friendly event. Admission increases reflected this, starting from only .25 to .50 cents for adults and from .10 to .25 cents for children under the age of 15. By 1962 admission was .75 cents for adults and the .25 cents for kids stayed the same and the age requirement was dropped to under 12 years of age and covered all of the events. The attendance grew from approximately 3,000 in 1946 to 23,302 in 1962.
From the beginning, the fair has had a western flare throughout, with many Country Western singers, comedians, and various other western themed performers. Events and entertainment included horse shows, juvenile rodeos, Sheriff’s Posse horse shows, many dog & chimp acrobatic performers, and jalopy races. Also in attendance were governors, noted political leaders, and T.V. & movie personality guest appearances. One of the exciting attractions was seeing who would win the crown for “Queen of the Fair.” Many of the young ladies who won the title of Queen had also first won a Rodeo title, demonstrating how hard working these youths were in the early days of the fair.
New building additions to the fair began with the construction of the automobile building in 1947 and went on to include the floral building, modern restrooms, model milk parlor and office building in 1948. Also added was a new horse show arena in 1952, a dormitory for youngsters who stay overnight for livestock exhibits in 1953, a caretaker’s house in 1954, and lastly in this time period, a 40’X120’ livestock building.