Originally Published: September 26, 2013 6:01 a.m.
The Yavapai Fair opens today in the tradition of the Yavapai County Fair, which would be celebrating its 100th birthday if it were still in hands of the association that once managed it.
More than a decade ago, the fair association left the Yavapai County Fairgrounds in Prescott and built a new complex and horse race track in Prescott Valley. Unfortunately, the operation went bankrupt, shutting down the fairgrounds and the track.
In order to keep the fair alive, Tim's Toyota Center stepped in three years ago to give it a home, for the time being, at least. This is the third year the event will take place there in the center's arena and outdoor space.
The late Danny Freeman, an avid historian, had a passion for the county fair. In fact, a building standing on the old grounds, now the Rodeo Grounds in Prescott, is named for him. He wrote a colorful history of the fair, noting that it began in October 1913 on the Dougherty Tract near Prescott. He chronicled that the "Santa Fe Railway played a big part in publicizing the 1913 fair" and others that came along after.
The early fair made a profit, enabling the board of directors to buy the land where the fair had been. The fair association got the land from Joe Dougherty for $100 an acre.
For generations, the Yavapai County Fair was the last hurrah of summer. People from all over the county aimed for blue ribbons, hoping that judges would award them top prizes for their homemade jams, jellies, cakes, pies, breads and pickles. Gardeners brought their best cucumbers, squash and tomatoes to show off. Others filled vases with flowers from their summer gardens, hoping judges would deem theirs to be the most beautiful. Quilters and sewers worked busily for months ahead on their handcrafted pieces doing their best to capture ribbons. Photographers and artists displayed their finest works. School children had their special place to exhibit their art.
Among the favorite attractions that drew kids and adults alike were the animals, the prized sheep, chickens, rabbits and cows.
But, just because those days are gone doesn't mean the heart of the fair is lost. The flowers, the vegetables, the handcrafted items, kids' artwork - not to mention the carnival and fair food - and all else we flocked to see at the annual county fair have found a place at Tim's Toyota Center.
For legal reasons, we must now call this annual weekend "The Yavapai Fair."
No matter the name, all the exhibitors and people who make this fair happen deserve our support.
This is a venerable tradition we should help carry on well into the future.