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Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
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The most in-depth, comprehensive site about the Skagit

Covers from British Columbia to Puget Sound. Counties covered: Skagit, Whatcom, Island, San Juan, Snohomish & BC. An evolving history dedicated to committing random acts of historical kindness
Noel V. Bourasaw, editor (bullet) 810 Central Ave., Sedro-Woolley, Washington, 98284
Home of the Tarheel Stomp (bullet) Mortimer Cook slept here & named the town Bug

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County Fair Grounds proposal
in Sedro for 1895 and 1896

Skagit County Times, May 2, 1896
[First part quotes earlier Skagit County Times article, June 29, 1895]
      Our citizens have, generally speaking, been entertaining the opinion that the proposition to secure the county fair for the twin towns, Sedro and Woolley, has become a dead issue, but such is not the case.
      Owing to many weighty obstacles the committee, W.E. Hightower, C.E. Bingham and W.G. Barnes, has been unable to make any marked progress until about a week ago, at which time, [Winfield Scott] Jameson, the president of the Sedro Land & Improvement company, passed a few days in our midst. The committee took advantage of the opportunity and got a first-class bona fide proposition from that gentleman. Mr. Jameson's proposition is that he will give the towns the exclusive right to the use of a 40-acre block of land, situate on the eastern corporation limits of the town of Sedro, for ten years; provided that the towns pay all taxes levied upon the property, and at the end of said period they have the privilege of securing a clear deed of the land by paying the sum of $400 therefore. In default of buying the property at the end of ten years the land and all improvements to revert

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      the Fourth to make arrangement for incorporation, and now that such a satisfactory proposition has been made as regards land, our citizens would do well to show their appreciation by manifesting the interest due on that occasion.
      The article above which appeared in the Times of June 29, 1895, is republished this week as a reminder for that committee, which we are loath to chronicle as, thus far, having signally failed in its duty to the citizens of Sedro-Woolley. Here is a golden opportunity slipping through our fingers all because the men who were intrusted with the business are "lying supinely on their backs," as it were, waiting for the other fellow.
      The county fair is an old and well tried proposition. Its beneficial effects upon all phases of farm life is well known. Skagit county is bidding for recognition from intending immigrants. What better way to prove the merits of our rich county than to produce the records of successful fairs? This Fair proposition is one of great interest to the bona fide residents of the county and the above reprint sets forth the advantages of Sedro-Woolley as THE location for it. Therefore, we would urge that our committee get to work and prepare for an exhibition this fall.

Journal research about the early Skagit County Fairs
      We are assuming that this proposal never flew, since there is no record of a fair in Sedro or Woolley during the 1890s. We have not yet been able to nail down when the first county fair was conducted. The Skagit County Fair Guide for 2003 marks last year's event as the 105th, which would apparently mean the first one was in 1898, but there may have been years during wars when it was not conducted. We are still trying to find someone in the fair administration who has documented information about the first fair. The first mention of any proposed fair is from the 1906 book, Illustrated History of Skagit and Snohomish Counties:
      In October 1890 a company was formed known as the Skagit county Agricultural society in which W.J. McKenna was one of the prime moves. Its capital stock was twenty-five thousand dollars and its object to hold an annual county fair and stock competition at Bayview. Many of the farmers and others interested purchased stock, but unfortunately the enterprise did not succeed.
      The next mention from the 1906 book is from 1901 when a "new fair association" purchased ground and erected a building for the Skagit County Fair that was held that year from October 3-5. Publications have been very vague about the location, but it was someplace north of Mount Vernon. Some old timers place it in the Riverside area south of the new 2003 bridge, which was then still rural. The capital stock was $15,000 and the board of 15 trustees included: H.A. March, Fidalgo; J.O. Rudene and Charles Nelson of LaConner; N.J. Moldstad, E.C. Million, I.E. Shrauger, G.W. Reed, C.A. Risbell of Mount Vernon; Emerson Hammer of Sedro-Woolley; Thomas P. Hastie Jr. of Skagit City. The president was Moldstad; secretary, J.L. Anable; treasurer, I.E. Shrauger. The executive committee included: Moldstad; Shrauger, C.A. Risbell, William Dale of Mount Vernon; H.R. Hutchinson of Mount Vernon.
      The 2003 guide that was published in the Skagit Valley Herald included a short story of fair history that attributed the early fairs to the granges of Skagit county.

      Granges were once a thriving social attraction. Before singles bars, before bowling alleys, before feel-better-about-yourself seminars, there were the granges. Grangers met for monthly dances, helped out people in their community, provided places for weddings and reunions, but they also each designed and then built big, intricate and colorful exhibits at the county fair. These detailed displays followed themes, such as "Agriculture: The All-American Industry," and most were made from the fruits of their labors. Canned peaches and pears were teamed up with beets, onions and heads of lettuce, along with some toy tractors and horses borrowed from the children, then arranged to form a scene depicting the theme. The contest between the many granges in the county to see which could create the best looking exhibit was taken very seriously.
      The Journal editor spent every August with his Skiyou 4-H club, preparing for the Skagit County Fair as if it were our World Series. The Fair was especially important since it always ended on the weekend of his birthday. Blue ribbons were the finest presents every year. He slept underneath the tables that held rows and rows of poultry pens and in 1958 he was thrilled to be awarded the Golden Chicken for outstanding poultry husbandry. You have to remember that, back then, there were no malls. The biggest thing that summer other than the Fair was finding a girl who would go necking at the Drive-In theater, which stood where the Cascade Mall is today. The county fair was staged just across the street from the drive-in for years and those old buildings were razed in the 1990s to make room for the Fred Meyer complex. We hope that a reader can provide more information about the history of the fair. And please find us someone who can provide the history of the Drive-In. One suspects that a few dozen county residents were conceived there or soon thereafter.

Story posted on Dec. 21, 2003 . . . Please report any broken links so we can update them

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