About the FairIn 1858, the first Fair was held at the Courthouse Square in West Bend. Farmers came to the Fair in ox carts. The wooden framed Courthouse housed the exhibits which needed protection from the elements.
Some of the events held included: a plowing match where farmers plowed ¼ acre of stubble ground with horses. The best and shortest time received first premium, trotting matches were also a popular event. $192.75 was paid out in premiums little over 1% of the premiums paid out today; expenses totaled $19.19 compared to over $600,000 today.In the late 1800's, the Fair moved to a 25-acre plot on the northeastern part of the City of West Bend, known as Fair Park. Records show that at the 1868 County Fair, an admission fee was charged:
- -.25 for adults
- -.10 for children
- -.25 for a 1-horse carriage
- -.50 for a 2-horse carriage
During the Great Depression, the Society met with financial difficulties and the buildings and grounds were sold at a foreclosure sale. However, there still was a desire to hold a County Fair and in May 1938, assets were turned over to the Washington County Board, a Fair Committee was appointed and in August 1938, a Fair was held on the Highway Dept. grounds in Slinger. This was deemed a temporary site.
In 1939, three barns and a restroom were built. By 1942, an additional 40x80 tent was erected to accommodate livestock. By 1944, requests were made for an additional barn, an office building, an exhibit building, and to look for property to accommodate parking.
1948 attendance estimates were near 30,000 and an additional 21 tents were put up to accommodate exhibits.
The process for developing a new fair facility was an ongoing attempt for over 45 years!
Finally, in 1978 an attempt was made to establish a new Fair site at the Gundrum Property in Slinger but after many months of study this location was not feasible for the fair.
In 1993, an Adhoc Committee was formed consisting of County Board members and community people to once again find a solution to a new fair site. At this point, discussion centered around not just developing a new fairgrounds, but a 365 day, multi-purpose facility "to enrich education, culture, economic and social opportunities" in all of Washington County.
In 1995, County personnel visited 12 potential sites located throughout Washington County. In July of 1996, a suitable site was secured, a master plan was developed and adopted by the County Board of Supervisors in April of 1997. As the 1998 Washington County Fair was opening for the last time in Slinger, County officials were preparing for the future Washington County Fair Park, and the new home of the Washington County Fair.
The Fair Park opened in July 1999 with the Washington County Fair. Today's attendance exceeds 100,000 people.