I thought it would be fun since the state fair is right around the corner to write about some of the history and how it came to be.
Due to the isolation of the territory (Utah), for the pioneers to survive it was imperative that they become self-sufficient and provide all of their necessities. Thus, the major goal of agricultural policy in Utah was complete self-sufficiency and independence.
The first state fair was in October of 1856 nine years after the pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley it was called the “Deseret Fair.”
Where it was going to be held was always a problem, and it switch back and forth in several locations. In 1902, the legislature purchased the 65 acres of the Fairpark (where it is today).
The records from the 1863 fair show this interest from the following awards; “Best boar, ornamental basket, ladies’ straw hat, best work table, picture frame, pair of woolen hose, bull 4 years old, patch-work quilt, best bread, sample cotton, door lock, mare colt, six brooms, six carrots, red cabbages, best map of Utah, best collection garden seeds, best shoe laces, best white gooseberries, best acre of flax, best Enfield rifle, best plaid flannel, best brown mare, best gross matches, best shoe blacking, two weaver’s reeds, best sample soap, best early peaches, best quart turpentine, best peck potatoes, best penmanship, 2 ewes, ornamental needle work, best fall pear, best verbena, best phlox, best butter, best sign painting, best Jersey, best baby chair, best sweet potato, best cotton gingham, best 100 pounds flour.”
Items were not classified as they are today and exhibits were displayed as a miscellany of frontier wealth. It can be seen that nearly every art and industry are represented, showing the true labors of early pioneers. In 1864.
To help finance the early fairs, life memberships were sold. The fee for membership was nominal, but provided the meager funds required and generated interest in the fair.
Among the early winners for exhibits are names prominent in Utah history, including Brigham Young, who was the winner of $25 for “Best Stallion” and won first prize for the “Best celery exhibit.” Other prizes include: $10 for best cow, $25 for the best fenced and cultivated farm. Diplomas were the only awards for the best shepherd dog, good penmanship and the best ten pounds of native sugar. Other items displayed were cheese, butter, table cutlery, a sword and scabbard, bushels of cocoons, specimens of raw silk and bales of cotton.
It is interesting how the Fair has evolved over the years.
The fairground is today listed on the Nation National Register of Historic Places.
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