A Fair History
For one week out of the year, the Crawford County community comes together for a week of celebration, competition, and fun and for everyone when the fair comes to town. Currently held in July, today’s fair includes big name entertainment, carnival rides, and truck and tractor pulls. The fair continues traditions such as the parade down Route 66, the queen pageant, and the famous fish sandwiches. The fair is a century old tradition that has grown into one of Crawford County’s largest events.
The first meeting of an organized fair board can be traced back to the year 1901, which is described in an article published by John Harris in the October 25, 1901 issue of the Cuba Telephone. W.D. Towe was the first elected president of the fair board and served 31 consecutive years. The board was made up of officers, a board of directors, and representatives from each township in the county. Committees were formed and plans began for the first fair to be held in September of 1902.
Due to a late harvest in the year 1902, the fair date was moved from September to October that year. The fair was held in Spruce Grove, now known as Cox Drive, in Cuba for three years. These early fairs were filled with activities such as a grand carnival, harvest picnic, games, farm and livestock exhibits, and political forum discussions. The financing for the fair was accomplished by selling stock. The total number of shares of stock originally sold is unknown, but one certificate housed by the Crawford County Historical Society identifies one share of stock at $3000.
In 1905, the Crawford County Fair Association purchased land south of Cuba’s city limits, and the fair moved to its new location. Additional land was purchased in 1910 for $1200 to create a race track. However, the land was sold to the City of Cuba in 1936 for a city park, and the property is now owned by the Crawford County R-2 School District where Paul Bryan Field is located.
Several traditions began at the fair including the fair queen pageant when Annie Burrows of Fanning was named the first “Queen of the Harvest” at the 1905 fair. The Grand Parade began in 1909 led by the Steelville band from the train depot in east Cuba to the fairgrounds. In 1912, horseracing was added to the fair events, and became the most popular attraction until 1920. The fair continued to grow with the addition of an agriculture hall, barns, offices, and ticket booths by the end of the 1920s.
In 1930, an arsonist destroyed almost all of the buildings on the fairgrounds. No one was ever charged for the crime, but it was believed the person responsible was upset with the Crawford County Fair Association over the awarding of prize money. Due to the devastating loss from the fire and the negative impact of the Depression, the association was unable to support a profitable fair and held its last fair in 1931 before disbanding.
Homecoming celebrations were held from 1932 to 1945 and sponsored by the Cuba Civics Club and Cuba Business Men’s Club. During this time, former president, Harry Truman, made a visit to the Homecoming in 1940. Standing in front of the Methodist Church along Route 66 on a Coca-Cola box, Truman was puzzled why people wouldn’t stop to listen to his campaign speech for a senate seat. After being told the community members were passing by to attend the Homecoming, Truman went to the fair as well and made his speech.
In 1946, the fair became known as the Cuba Community Fair with the sponsorship of the Cuba Civic Club and Auxiliary. By 1953, a fair board was re-established with representatives from different organizations, and the name of the fair underwent another name change in 1964 to the Community Fair. Another tradition began in 1969 with the First Annual Fat Calf Sale. Drew Stubblefield was the top seller. His calf was purchased by Chilton Workman at 34 cents per pound bringing in a total of $341.70. The name was changed back to the original Crawford County Fair in 1972 when the fair board incorporated, with the hope of drawing interest from all communities in the county.
Ernie Hood donated property to the City of Cuba in 1995 with the stipulation the Crawford County Fair Board be allowed to hold the fair there each year. The property, originally used as a racehorse training facility, is located at Hood Park which runs parallel to Route 66 on the east end of Cuba. Many townspeople were reluctant to move the fair to the new location, but the new property provided more room for events. In 1996, the first fair was held on the property at Hood Park and continues to be held there each year.
The Crawford County Fair has seen a lot of change since 1902. Some traditions have filtered out, other traditions have grown into main attractions, and new traditions are being added. The community members continue to the line the streets for the Grand Parade that now starts at Mizell Funeral Home and leads down Route 66 to the fairgrounds. There is always the question of which lucky lady will be passed the crown and reign over the current fair. What began as a fat calf sale in 1969 with 11 calves sold has grown into a tremendous livestock auction including 40 steers, 82 hogs, four pens of rabbits, one sheep, 10 goats, and 10 cured bacons in 2015 with Dustin Daehn’s grand champion steer selling for $3.75/pound for a total of $4,687.50. Big name entertainment draws a crowd to the fair each year with concerts by music legends such as Merle Haggard, George Jones, and Charlie Daniels to name a few. Fairground improvements continue to grow each year.
Through the years, the fair has worked through the good and bad times. The tradition of the Crawford County Fair continues to grow, but one thing has stayed the same. Fair week is a week when the community comes together rain or shine, and works together to make the event a success. The fair is filled with quality time spent with family and friends, smiles and laughter, treasured memories, and fun for all ages. Welcome to the Crawford County Fair where we continue to grow great memories.
Information on the History of the Crawford County Fair can be found in
Celebrating 150 Years: A History of Cuba, Missouri.
A special thank you goes to the Crawford County Historical Society and Museum and Jane Reed with Viva Cuba for their contributions to preserve our treasured past for future citizens to cherish, love, and respect