Farm related projects were, and continue to be, the emphasis of the Pierce County Fair. The 4-H Fair, as it was called then, had drawn youth members from all over the county. At that time, there were few entrants and there were few categories.
For the first three years, the fair was without a permanent home. From Benson Grange, it moved to Woodland School and then to the Fruitland Grange. These first fairs lacked barns and facilities for the animals. All judging took place outside on the lawns.
After three years of wandering, the fair eventually settled at Sumner High School. A 4’ x 6’ panel of plywood, placed on the ground in front of the old Sumner grandstand served as the first stage. This, combined with a microphone in the trunk of the county agents car, formed the first grandstand show of the fair, still known as the 4-H Fair.
1952 marked the fourth anniversary of the fair and heralded several changes. The Fair format was changed to include all youth and was renamed the Pierce County Junior Fair. At this time, the Fair was incorporated, thus making itself eligible for annual state appropriations from the peri-mutual funds. Frank Ballou, of Puyallup, was serving as the fair’s first manager during this time. Dr. Vitt Ferrrucci, of Puyallup, was named the first President of the new Board of Directors.
Changes happened again in 1953 when the fair ran 3 full days instead of 2 1/2, and the first fair queen was chosen. Carolyn Burk, of Midland, was named to be the first county fair queen. During this year, the first commercial displays were accepted along with the community service club concessions.
In 1959, the fair board asked the business people of the county to help them financially and offered plaques to be displayed, letting the public know they were supporting the fair. In 1960, Pierce county joined the Department of Agriculture in helping support the fair. For the first time, several hundred premium checks, totaling $2500 were mailed to excited exhibitors.
In 1963, the Puyallup Rotarian’s sponsored a pancake breakfast for all exhibitors and superintendents. This has become an annual tradition still anticipated by participants. The Board of Directors voted to remove the “junior” from the name of the fair in 1967, creating the Pierce County Fair. However, the goals and functions of the fair did not change, to continue to serve the youth of Pierce County.
These were also the days of makeshift animal shelters, which later gave way to a series of bolt together buildings, which were erected by Sumner and Puyallup service clubs, prior to the fair opening. A move to a permanent home, Graham’s Frontier Park in 1968 enable this practice to come to an end. Now, these organizations turned their efforts into creating a permanent fair environment.
The first project of the building program was a 40’ x 100’ Home Economics display hall. A flurry of building activity occurred form 1968 to 1978, ending with the livestock barn in 1978. A requirement for a fire safety water line ended all new construction. In between the years of 1978 and 1988, other areas appropriate to the running of a quality fair such as; fencing of the grounds, upgrading concessions with running water, show rings, wash racks, and a manure dump, were all a part of the continuous activities worked on by the fair and friends of the fair volunteers. Finally, in 1988, another restroom started the building program again. A larger fair office, several new exhibit buildings and two new horse barns have brought the fair to what it is today.
In 1976, the fair unveiled its present 4-day show schedule. The fair continues to grow through the strength of hundreds of volunteers, and a cooperative effort between the Pierce County Fair Association and Pierce County Parks and Recreation.