DUBUQUE COUNTY FAIR
On September 1, 1884, what was billed as the Interstate Fair attracted the curious to see such exhibits as a demonstration of "type writing," a cream separator which promised to revolutionize the separation of milk and cream, and new fashions.
The first permanent fairgrounds were built in Cascade. Organization plans culminated on June 19, 1891, when the articles of incorporation for the Cascade Driving Park and Fairground Association were published. Efforts to hold the event in Dubuque had failed, according to some accounts of the time, because the proposed industrial focus of the fair had not been appealing to the farmers of the county.
The Cascade Fair and Driving Park Association abandoned attempts to sponsor the annual event in 1901.
In April 1904 the Dubuque Tri-State Fair Association was announced. The association had fifteen directors. The officers included president, C.J. W. Saunders; treasurer, W.B.Baumgartner, and Col. J.W. Patterson, secretary. On September 4, 1904, Dubuque residents were informed that the "Tri-State Fair" which was billed as the "first fair in twenty years" would be held from September 5th to the 10th. Determined to make the event successful, Friday was declared "Dubuque Day," and local merchants closed their businesses to allow their employees time to attend. Visitors could view exhibits of livestock, but the greatest attention was paid to trained elk diving fifty feet into a tank of water and a performer doing her "radium dance." Held at NUTWOOD PARK, the fair featured horse racing and promises that the grounds would be kept in excellent condition the entire year.
Newspaper articles indicate that the earliest mention of the "Dubuque County Fair and Tri-State Exhibition" was made on May 7, 1901. Efforts to establish a permanent Dubuque County Fair Association were held in Dyersville on September 8-9, 1920. Articles or incorporation were filed and officers elected. C.L. Meis was the president.
From 1939 to 1954, Dubuque County residents found 4-H Achievement Shows and the Tri-State Exposition to be the equivalent of a county fair. In 1953, a fair was held on the Louis Schemmel farm near Farley. Obtaining state aid required the formation of a Junior Fair Association and the provision of funds for premiums and other expenses which would later be reimbursed by the State of Iowa when a claim was filed. To raise money, the fair board sold one hundred memberships at twenty-five cents each and received donations of $25.00 from Farley businessmen and other donors.
In June 1954, the Dubuque County Board of Supervisors leased 66-acres of land at the DUBUQUE COUNTY HOME to the Dubuque County Fair Association to establish a permanent county fair site. In August, 1954, the TELEGRAPH HERALD announced the "first annual Dubuque County Fair...at Iowa's newest fairgrounds." The three day event, featuring a midway with at least six carnival rides, was said to be larger and "more complete" than either the Tri-State Expositions or 4-H Shows.