85 years and counting, fair set to entertain county
At 85 years, the Leavenworth County Fair is going strong.
And once again, the Leavenworth County Fairgrounds will be brimming with activity with this year’s fair, which kicked off Tuesday in Tonganoxie.
Judging of various animals, foods, crafts and more will take place throughout the fair, which concludes Saturday night.
Some of the entertainment planned for this week includes:
• Youth barrel racing and speed events, 6 p.m. tonight at the grandstand. Barrel racing for pee wee, senior, youth and open classes will start about 7 p.m.
• Garden tractor and motorcycle riding at 6 p.m.
• Armband night at the carnival, 6-10 p.m.
• Musical performances by Wild Hayride, 8 p.m. in the Big Top Tent, free admission.
• Senior Day at the Fair, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
• Ag Challenge of Champions, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., 4-H office.
• 46th annual livestock auction, 6:30 p.m., livestock show arena.
• Mud Run, 7 p.m., north of parking area.
• Musical performance by The Fairmounters, 8 p.m., Big Top Tent, free admission.
• Ag Olympics, 10 a.m., Big Top Tent.
• Pie eating contest, noon, Big Top Tent.
• Turtle races, 2 p.m., Big Top Tent.
• Kids Pedal Tractor Pull, 3 p.m., livestock show arena.
• Demolition Derby, 6:30 p.m., grandstand.
If rain doesn’t keep fairgoers away, it could be an ideal week of weather for this year’s fair. Highs are expected to be in the high 70s today and low to mid-80s the rest of the week. There are stronger chances for rain today and Friday.
History of the fair
The Leavenworth County Fair actually started as the promotion of a big crop of corn and has transformed into the showing of hundreds more categories in fruits, vegetables, animal, clothing, photography and more.
The annual event has grown considerably from those humble beginnings.
That first event was a celebration of a bumper corn crop in 1926.
At the time, Walt Neibarger, editor of The Tonganoxie Mirror, and OM Williamson, vocational agriculture teacher at Tonganoxie High School, organized a corn show to showcase the year’s strong yield. The show took place in a downtown Tonganoxie room that was said to have attracted 3,000 visitors.
The next year, it became a corn and apple show, and though the first two events weren’t named the Leavenworth County Fair, it was the organizers’ intent for them to be county fairs. There was a state law in 1927 providing for premium funding from the county, but the Legislature voted down Tonganoxie’s proposal because lawmakers deemed the city to be too small to support a county fair.
But the event continued to grow and eventually was known as the Leavenworth County Fair. It moved from downtown to the grounds of the high school in the early 1930s. In 1938, the fair moved to its current site along Kansas Highway 16. JC Haigwood, who was the fourth fair board president for Leavenworth County, purchased additional land. He kept it in trust until the fair association could purchase the land.
The event continued to grow through the years, but was dealt a setback in 2000 when a tornado ripped through Tonganoxie, causing substantial damage at the fairgrounds.
According to Fair Board President David Todd, every building at the fairgrounds sustained damage from the tornado — just three months before that
“The one thing I know I’ll never forget was how everybody involved in the fair and 4-H and FFA programs rallied around and got the place cleaned up,” Todd said in a Mirror newspaper story on the 10-year anniversary of the tornado in 2010.
The administration building’s west side was the only reconstruction not completed in time for that year’s fair. A large tent was put up in the meantime. Now 11 years after the tornado, the fairgrounds continue to be the host to the fair and other events throughout the