Iowa History Daily: September 7 - A Permanent Home for the Fair

Iowa History Daily: On September 7, 1886, Iowans flocked from all over the state to take in the dedication of the permanent home of the Iowa State Fair. A familiar favorite to many from the Hawkeye state, the Iowa State Fair Grounds still welcomes over 1,000,000 visitors yearly.

The first fair took place in Fairfield in 1854, and during the early era the fair was held in different communities including Muscatine, Oskaloosa, Iowa City, Dubuque, Burlington, Clinton, Keokuk, and Cedar Rapids. Moving permanently to Des Moines in 1878, the fair took place on the west side of the city between 38th St. East, 42 Street West, Center Street, and Grand Avenue.

During the early 1880s the Iowa General Assembly appropriated $50,000 for a permanent location if the citizens of Des Moines would match the funds. Fundraising proved successful, and Calvin Thornton sold 262.91 east side acres for $175 an acre. With lands in hand, construction began on the fairgrounds familiar to Iowans today.

By September of 1886, the fair opened with much pomp and circumstance at the new location east of downtown Des Moines. Governor Larrabee welcomed the crowds and encouraged them to take in at least 54 newly constructed buildings at the site. Pioneer Hall, still a staple familiar to fairgoers today, stood proudly in its current location. Over 10,000 people and numerous exhibitors attended the fair’s opening. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryCalendar


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