Platte County Fair History



A History of the Platte County Fair

By Carl M. Myers, MD

 

            The county fair has been an important part of the lives of the citizens of Platte County , Missouri since the first fair in 1858. The establishment of the county fair in Platte County is well-documented in William Paxton’s Annals of Platte County, Missouri. This 1182-page manuscript recorded the happenings and events in Platte County , usually with great detail, from the time of the first settlers to 1897 when the original Annals was published. Mr. Paxton continued to record Platte County history after that publication and inserted the information in his personal copy of the Annals. Interleaving sheets were added, and on them, Mr. Paxton hand-wrote various additional notes over the years until his death in 1916. This resource did not surface until 1997 when it was discovered at the Kansas City Public Library.  It was transcribed and subsequently published as an addendum by Barbara Whitters in September 2001. Other resources that document the early fairs are the History of Clay and Platte Counties, Missouri, a 1121-page book, published in 1885, and articles from the Leavenworth , Kansas and Platte City , Weston, and Liberty , Missouri newspapers available on microfilm at the Missouri State Historical Society in Columbia , Missouri . The Platte City Landmark  has been published as a weekly newspaper continuously since 1865. It has contained advertisements and articles about the fair each year. I have personally reviewed these sources as well as fair records to prepare this history of the Platte County Fair.

            Paxton describes the organization of the first fair on October 6, 1858 as “an impromptu meeting of citizens at the drug store of Burge and Hogue, in Platte City , determined to hold a county fair on the 21st, 22nd, and 23rd days of October. The grounds subsequently purchased, near Tracy , were selected…” He lists the officers and directors and goes on to say, “hasty preparations were made, a liberal subscription raised, and general interest was manifested.” Paxton described a show ring at that first fair that was surrounded by ropes. He goes into detail about the collapse of temporary bleachers that had been erected and the fall of one-hundred-fifty or so young ladies from Professor Todd’s Female Academy who were sitting on them. Paxton stated, “In a moment, all were rescued; my own gallantry was conspicuous. Not a soul was hurt.”

            Less than a year later on June 15, 1859, the 14.99 acres that held the first fair was purchased from Andrew Tribble for $1200. This is presently the south half of our fairgrounds. Two more fairs were held before the Civil War on October 11-15, 1859 and September 25-29, 1860.

            The Civil War began in 1861, and Platte County suffered tremendous destruction. Platte City was burned to the ground in December 1861, and many men in the county were murdered. Due to these conditions, the Platte County Fair was not held in the years 1861 and 1862. However, as Paxton aptly stated, “The will of the people to come together in wholesome entertainment was strong,” and the fair was held again in the fall of 1863, just twenty-two months after Platte City was burned to the ground.

            The attendance at the early fairs was remarkable. Paxton reported that four-hundred spectators were at the fairgrounds at the time the bleachers fell at the first fair in 1858. A local paper reported that the average attendance at the first two days of the 1867 fair was three-thousand people, no less than six-thousand people on Thursday, and eight- to ten-thousand on Friday. Saturday’s attendance was reported as ten-thousand. An article in the Landmark before the 1871 fair noted:

“Somehow, while all other county fairs in the section are failures or partial successes only, those of Platte County are uniformly successful. The people of the whole state always expect Platte County to do something extra in the way of her fair, and they are not disappointed, and the thousands upon thousands of visitors go home bearing testimony to the energy and enterprise of our people… Such a reputation is of itself a great auxiliary to a fair, but we must not depend too much on it for success. It is in the powers of the people to have the coming fair be, by far, the most interesting and successful of any of those that have preceded it. To do that, every public-spirited man must contribute his influence and his active participation in the matter. Let our people assist earnestly and cheerfully and we have no doubt of success. There is time enough yet remaining to accomplish much. Let it be improved.”

These sentiments have guided the officers, board members, share holders, and volunteers of the Platte County Fair since the first fair. We want to celebrate this continual adaptation and improvement at our 150th Annual Fair in 2013.

            By the 1870s the fairgrounds had a track for showing horses and livestock and for racing, trotting, and pacing horses. The grandstand was similar to what it is now. Large barns were built to house the many animals shown and raced. Many of the early settlers of Platte County were natives of Kentucky , Virginia , and Tennessee . They brought extensive knowledge of purebred horses from the older, eastern states. Missouri mule teams of that era were the standard against which draft animals were measured throughout the nation.

            The fairs in Platte County were three-to five-day events and in the early years included a county-wide picnic. The fairs were held in the months of July, August, or September of each year. There have been only two shorter fairs. The first was in 1875 when a great grasshopper plague came to Platte County . That year the fair was postponed until October 11, 1875 when a county-wide picnic was held on the fairgrounds. The only other one-day event was during he Great Depression and the drought of 1834 when a one-day picnic was again held on the fairgrounds. My father, Mack Myers, vividly remembered that event and stated, “One day was enough because it accounted for a summer’s total earnings.”

            The 25th Annual Fair must not have been much of an event because Paxton’s only report was, on August 31, 1887, “The fair; bad weather.” However, the 50th Annual Fair in 1913 was notable because an airplane landed on the fairgrounds. Ross Naylor, a long-time Platte City resident was quoted as saying, “That was a big deal because nobody saw an airplane in those days.” Memorable events like this help make the fair an important part of people’s lives.

            The 60th Annual Fair in 1923 was also memorable, but for a very different reason. Fifty-seven men and women who had attended the First Annual Platte County Fair in 1863 were present at this fair. Their picture was taken by ACME Photo Company of Kansas City in front of the grandstand that is still in use today. This picture sold for one dollar each, and some of these original photographs are still in existence today.

            The 75th Annual Fair was held in 1938. The Diamond Jubilee Catalog from this fair contained a statement that is still as pertinent today as it was then:

“It has always been the ambition of the directors of the Fair Association to make their fair bigger and better each succeeding year until it is second to none other. We are proud of the success our fair has attained. This great success is due to you, the patrons, the exhibitors, the advertisers, the concessionaires, and the citizens of the county who solidly support the Platte County Fair every year.”

            The 100th Annual Fair was held July 20-28, 1963. I was fourteen years old at the time and I remember the events well. One of the highlights was a five-evening centennial pageant, the “ Platte-A-Rama ,” and I remember working backstage during the event. It was a grand enactment of Platte County history from the first settlers who arrived in Platte County in 1823 to the Atomic Age. There were seventeen historical vignettes performed by hundreds of Platte County citizens in front of the grandstand. The budget for the nine-day fair was twenty to twenty-five thousand dollars. A noted Platte City artist, Jean Wilson, designed the seal for the 100th fair, which is still used as our official fair logo today.

            Many more notable events have occurred since the first Platte County Fair. Below is a listing of some of the most important events, in chronological order:

August 10, 1821

Missouri entered the Union as the 24th state.

1839

Platte County became a county.

October 21-23, 1858

First Platte County Fair

June 25, 1859

14.99 acres were purchased from Andrew Tribble for $1200.

October 11-15, 1859

Second fair

September 25-29, 1860

Third fair

1861

No fair, Civil War

1862

No fair, Civil War

October 21-23, 1863

First Annual Platte County Fair

1869

Confederate Reunion -a tradition at the fair that continued for a few years

1873

Board voted to add a race track for horse racing to the grounds.

1874

Grand Balloon Ascension

1875

One-day fair due to grasshopper plague

1876

First carnival at the Platte County Fair

September 5, 1876

Incorporated as the Platte County Mechanical and Stock Association

December 12, 1876

1.03 acres were purchased from John and Martha Hedges for $150.

December 23, 1876

4.25 acres were purchased from Mrs. Elizabeth Tribble for $318.25.

May 26, 1877

0.97 acres were purchased from Mrs. Elizabeth Tribble for $72.75.

1877

Race track was built.

1878

Re-incorporated as the Platte County Agricultural, Mechanical and Stock Association (PCAMSA) under the Missouri statutes relative to agricultural societies by the county court of Platte County . This is the same incorporation and statues we operate under today. Paxton reported that the PCAMSA was formed with one-hundred members at a cost of $25 each for a total of $2500 stock value.

1891

Grand Hippodrome at the fair

April 4, 1892

0.59 acres were purchased from Thomas H. Talbott and Ruth E. Talbott for $40.

March 23, 1893

10 acres were purchased from Charles J. Dye for $1000.

1898

Best looking baby contest

Floral Hall built

1901

William Jennings Bryan, a former presidential candidate, attracted a large crowd for a speech

1904

Military displays, drills and parades by U.S. soldiers each day of the fair

1913

50th Annual Fair-Airplane landed and took off from the fair.

1916

An airplane took off and landed twice a day at the fairgrounds. The grandstand was rebuilt.

1917

Special feature was a horse that ran a race alone without a rider or driver.

1923

60th Annual Fair-Photograph made of fairgoers who had attended the first annual fair in 1863.

1924

Dance Hall building was constructed.  It was renamed the Dirty Shame Saloon in 1963 and is still in use today.

1934

One-day fair due to the Great Depression and drought. Airplane rides were given.

1938

75th Annual Fair – Diamond Jubilee Fair

1939

Platte County ’s Century of Progress (100 years as a county) was celebrated by the county’s youth in a pageant using Paxton’s Annals as a source of material.

1956 & 1957

Rodeo was the main attraction – season ticket price was $4.

1958

Ostrich races were started.

1963

100th Annual Fair – Centennial Fair-Fair was held for nine days and was the longest fair in history.

The highlight was a pageant called the “ Platte-A-Rama ” that spanned five evenings.

The Dance Hall, constructed in 1924, was renamed the Dirty Shame Saloon.  Gary Olsen and Paul Whitters became the first proprietors of the Dirty Shame Saloon and obtained the fair’s first liquor license.  The famous Lady’s Face was pained on the floor of the Dirty Shame Saloon by Coco Babcock and Barbara Whitters.  Entertainment was Charley Horton and the Country Gentlemen with Tom Ode, Bob Bryan, Bill Huntsman, and Don Yocum.

1964

Krautburger stand was opened by Mutt and Nannie Tinder.

1965

Fair was postponed until September because of rain and flooding.

1966

A new roof for the grandstand cost $2000.

1967

First Demolition Derby – “Rodeo on Wheels”

1968

Kitty Wells’ “Grand Ole Opry” and the Tennessee Mountain Boys Band performed.

1973

Roll-Over Derby started. Many cars got stuck in the mud because of rain.

1974

Ronnie Pine and Cecil Amos took over production of the Demolition Derby.

1976

Juanita Houx became the first female president of the fair board.

1978

Platte County Fair Queen, Anita Vanetti, was crowned Missouri State Fair Queen.

1979

Chain linked fence constructed around the fairgrounds under the supervision of president Mack Myers and John Baber. Mack Myers building was erected.

1981

The Mud Marathon was begun under the management of the Hill Brothers Construction Company.

December 30, 1981

1.19 acres were purchased from Howard Alexander and Howard Breen for a second entrance off 92-Highway

1984

501-C3 status was established with the IRS.

1985

New arena for the horse and mule shows was erected.

1986

New bleachers were erected.

July 25, 1986

Past presidents’ dinner was held under a giant oak tree on the fairgrounds.

1987

Mule show revived by Jim McCrea, DVM. It had not been held since 1952.

1988

125th Annual Fair-The first melodrama was performed.

1990

The Platte Pavilion was erected, the Demolition Derby pit was fenced in, and a 24-ft addition was added to the livestock barn.

1991

New bleachers were erected and a concrete floor was added to the Pavilion.

1992

New announcers’/ krautburger stand was erected.

1993

Fair was postponed until August due to flooding.

2003

Platte Purchase building was erected.

November 2008

18 acres were purchased from Bill Mann.

2010

New bleachers were built.

            Our current fairgrounds are comprised of 51.02 acres of land, purchased in eight different parcels listed above. We hold our fair on the same land that held our first fair from October 21-23, 1858. In addition to Floral Hall (erected 1898), the grandstand (erected 1916), and the Dirty Shame Saloon (erected 1924), our fairgrounds have multiple newer buildings: two large pole barns, the Platte Pavilion, the announcers’/ krautburger stand, the Wayne Bremer building, the Mack Myers building, and the Platte Purchase building. The Mack Myers building and the Platte Purchase buildilng are heated and air-conditioned and are utilized year-round for auctions, meetings, wedding receptions, and parties.

            Our most recent fair was held July 21-24, 2010. In order to give a perspective on what we are currently doing at our fair, here is a listing of events:


·        4-H small animal showmanship contest

·        4-H dog show

·        4-H exhibits for three nights

·        petting zoo for four nights

·        carnival for four nights

·        missy/master contest (boys and girls ages 2-5)

·        street entertainment such as jugglers and clowns for four nights

·        melodrama for four nights

·        wine competition and tasting of Platte County wines

·        county queen contest and coronation

·        musical entertainment at the Dirty Shame Saloon (four nights), Platte Purchase building (four nights), and the Platte Pavilion (three nights)

·        senior citizens’ assembly and games

·        4-H talent contest

·        mule show

·        adult talent contest

·        Demolition Derby for two nights

·        Mud Marathon

·        truck and tractor pull

·        workshop for wine-makers and grape-growers

·        kids’ games

·        horseshoe pitching contest

·        discount carnival rides

·        fiddle contest

·        Texas -hold-‘em poker tournament

·        youth talent showcase

·        square dancing

·        horse show

·        two fair-run food stands and five beer stands operating four nights

·        50 commercial vendors consisting of 20 food stands and 30 miscellaneous sales and information booths

·        Floral Hall exhibits open four nights

·        Floral Hall contests in categories including art, photography, jewelry, ceramics, doll-making, toy-making, sculpture, pottery, floral arrangements, crochet, knitting, sewing, quilting, wood-working, glass art, basket-making, rug-making, baking, vegetable trays, canning, decorations, and miscellaneous other crafts


 

As you may suspect, the planning and production of these events at the Platte County Fair is a huge undertaking.  Our sixteen member Fair Board, five officers, and the 100 stock holders are assisted by at least 200 volunteers from the community.  We are indebted to these individuals who choose to donate their gifts and talents to our fair every year.  Many of these individuals have had parents and grandparents who have worked the fair in past years.  Individuals and businesses financially sponsor classes in our horse and mule shows.  Three of our local banks, Wells Bank, Bank of Weston, and Platte Valley Bank, are annual sponsors of the fair.  Motor sports events, such as the Demolition Derby, the Mud Marathon, and the Tractor Pull, are supported financially and by equipment donations from St Jo Diesel, Dean Machinery-Caterpillar Equipment, and Murphy Tractor-John Deere Equipment.  The fair receives generous monetary support from North Kansas City Beverage/Anheiser-Busch and Pepsiamericas.  The employees of Pepsi and North Kansas City Beverage provide invaluable support to our food and drink stands.  The local newspapers, The Landmark, Platte County Citizen, Weston Chronicle, and the Kansas City Star do an excellent job of publicizing the fair.  Without all these dedicated supporters, we could not have such a quality event.

The Platte County Agricultural Mechanical and Stock Association (PCAMSA) is a private 501-C3 not-for-profit organization whose purpose is to organize and produce the yearly Platte County Fair and to maintain the buildings and the fairgrounds. The fair association has one-hundred stock-holders who live in all areas of our county. Each stockholder is required to donate at least ten hours of volunteer time to the fair each year. The shares of stock are issued by the board of directors; a share can be purchased by contacting an individual who wishes to sell his/her share and having the board reissue the stock in the name of the new shareholder. The fair association has never paid dividends to its shareholders; all profits are used for upkeep and improvement of the buildings, grounds, and fair events.  Platte County and the state of Missouri do not provide any tax support for the fair. The fair association operates on a cash-only basis and is currently debt-free. The board of directors meets monthly during the year and welcomes any suggestions from the public on how to improve the fair. Our single goal is to make the Platte County Fair the best county fair in the state of Missouri , while honoring its history and traditions and adapting to the changing times. We are extremely proud of our fair and we extend a sincere invitation to everyone to attend and enjoy the fair.



Copyright 2006 Platte County Fair. All rights reserved.


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