In the great American tradition of County Fair's, the Columbia County Fair & Rodeo's 100th annual celebration provides opportunities for area residents and visitors to display the skills they've developed with much hard work and practice. Rightly so, for the everyday performances of many people are worth celebrating.
Whether the produce displayed is canned peaches or steaks on the hoof, beautifully scented roses or pungent garlic, a decorated cake or shorn sheep really doesn't matter. What matters is the opportunity to share the pleasures of work with others interested in similar pursuits
100 Years ago, the Columbia County Pomona Grange members were the start of our Columbia County Fair, and , today, they still take a very active role in the Fair:
1902: The Columbia County Pomona Grange was organized. The main purpose of the Pomona Grange was the desire to tackle problems facing farmers in the early days. the Grange quickly became interested and involved in community service.
1909: The idea of a County Fair was occupying some of the attention of the Yankton Grange members. The little grange hall had held three successful fairs and plans were being made for a larger one
1912: A delegation from the Yankton Fair Association appeared before the County Court and applied for appropriations for a County Fair. The County Court agreed to make an order setting apart $200 for such a fair, which was then held at the Yankton Grange hall.
It was the intention, of the association, to hold a fair in which all citizens of Columbia County would be invited to participate and premiums would be offered for the best exhibits in livestock and poultry as well as fruits and agricultural products
1913: The Yankton Fair Association changed their name to the Columbia County Fair Association, even though the name was not official with the County Court. The fair was moved to St Helens, which was called Washington Square- then St Helens High School- then Condon Junior High School- and now Lewis & Clark School. Money raising plans were under way to build a pavilion and stock sheds. Their plan was to "Make it the Biggest Event of its kind ever held in the County and also to make it an annual event". It was to have horse races, fireworks, band concerts, and various attractions. the pavilion, for General displays, was 34' x 30' and work had begun that June.
1915: From the success of the Columbia County Fair Association in putting on the County Fair, the County Court acknowledged the Columbia County Fair.
1923: The Appleton property, at Deer Island, was available for $100 per acre, a very good buy, because similar properties were selling for $200 to $500 per acre.
Columbia County Pomona Grange had been advocating the purchase of land more suitable for a fair the Washington Square ( now Lewis & Clark site), and members were impressed with the suitability location and price of this tract for a permanent fair grounds, and alsoas being ideal fro other punlic purposes.
The committee of Grangers presented the idea to the County Court, but received no encouragement. After several attempts, the committee was told the only way the purchase could be made was by vote of the people.
1924: To get the issue on the May 1924 ballot, committee members worked successfully to obtain the number of signatures required. In spite of the opposition, the measure carried by a " nice majority".
The one mill tax paid for the land in full and also helped build four of five buildings on the property. Everyone agreed, with the location on the Columbia River Highway, the large level acreage; the beautiful grove north of the buildings with fir, maple, alder, dogwood and cedar trees; the grounds framed by the green hills on the west while the Columbia River washes the eastern boundary.
The Grange used the buildings to hold their activities during the off season and put on the fair each fall.
1961: Our records show the first Columbia County Fair & Rodeo Court was in 1961. But, we do know that there was a Rodeo Court under another name with the same functions prior to 1961.
1966: The County sold the old fairgrounds in Deer Island to Shell Chemical Company ( now Dyno Nobel and Knife River) and the "new" (current) fairgrounds was bought on Bachelor Flat Road. From there, wecontinued to grow into the Modern Days.
1967: Plans to build the new home of the Columbia County Fair was on the way.
1968: The new fair buildings became a reality with the start of the Pavilion: Agriculture Building; 4-H Building; Beef; Dairy; and Poultry Barns.
1969: The Rodeo Arena started to show progress, and about a year later, the Horse Barns were built.
1970: The Horse Barns were built next to the 4-H Arena. The barns included 88 box stalls and 6 tie stalls.
1980: It was about time that the Sheep Barn and Maintenance Building were added, which followed with the Goat Barn.
1986: The Pomona (County) Grange Farm Museum was built mostly by donated materials and labor. Once construction began, people realized what the Grange was doing and the donation of items came in very quickly. Before we knew it, the building was full. The items in the museum have been donated or are on loan and will continue to be today.
1987: The Master Garden began showing its beauty and has continued to grow thanks to the special care from the master garden volunteers.
1991: St Helens Garden Club put a new concrete floor in the Floral building
1996: Due to budget cuts the fair exhibitor premiums for Open Class and 4-H were discontinued. Friends of Fair formed a non-profit organization, for the purpose of raising funds to pay both the 4-H and Open Class premiums.
1999: Through the efforts of the 4-H and Friends of the Fair, a new Swine Barn is built. When you walk through this barn, you will see names of individuals and sponsors who donated time and money on the panels, showing the join community effort to house the swine during fair.
2000: After four years of planning, the new kitchen in the Pavilion was completed by the Columbia River PUD. The Maintenance Shop was remodeled from money received from the Concerts, making a joint Fair Office ad Maintenance Shop house in the same building.
2003: The Fair received a grant to make much needed improvements to the 4-H Building, which included a new furnace with a cooling system, all new windows, and a new floor in the dining room area, all new exterior doors and carpet for the dorms. An Addition to the Farm Museum was built with donated labor and materials and once again filled quickly.
2004: Again with the support of the 4-H and Friends of Fair, a concrete slab has been poured for a show area between the Beef Barn and Sheep Barn, Floral Building and the Farm Museum received a new rood with the materials donated by Malarkey Roofing and volunteers doing the labor.
2009-2010: Improvements were made tot he Pavilion- booths along the outside were removed, a new roof was put on, a new heating system was installed, and new doors were installed. A grant paid for all the improvements except for the roofing materials which was donated by Malarkey Roofing.
2011-2014: Improvements were made to the Agriculture Building by the Columbia Rotary Club and its members from painting the building; redid the dirt floor to make it smooth; and repaired the outside booths.
2014: Again a new stainless steel kitchen was installed, this time in the 4-H building. It was donated by Warren Grange.
2015: You will see the new entrance to the 4-H Building as you enter the fairgrounds. Again this was donated by Warren Grange.
So enjoy the 100th anniversary of the Columbia County Fair and , just as there are sparkling memories of the other years at the fair, start building new memories to enjoy in the future. Let's never lose hold of the meaning of the county Fair. It's a heritage we cannot afford to lose. Much has gone into it each year, and too many dreams and hopes have been the foundation of the Columbia County Fair. It is truly a special time each year for all in Columbia County to come and join together in sharing accomplishments, dreams, and friendships. Thank you for your part in making your county fair a "Century of 100 years of Service".