BY JENNY GOLDSBERRY
This year was the 33rd anniversary of the Weber County Fair. However, the fairgrounds have been around much longer than that and hosted many gatherings before the first county fair in 1988. The county built the Ogden Livestock Coliseum in 1926, which served as the center for early events similar to what the fair does today “We’ve previously published an article about how the coliseum led to the Golden Spike Arena and is now the centerpiece to the fairgrounds.”
The earliest contribution the county fair made to the community came even before the 1900’s. In 1855, officials built the tabernacle in Ogden, on the corner of Tabernacle Square at Washington Boulevard and 22nd Street. Today, a temple for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sits in that same square. This original tabernacle’s construction included pine lumber from Ogden canyon and Strongs canyon. Then, they sawed the lumber at Farr’s Mill. The walls were constructed of adobe, which Weber County manufactured. The completed building had a seating capacity of 1,200. By 1896, after two and a half decades of use, it needed remodeling. Unofficial county fairs provided funds for the remodeling.
In 1929, a few communities across the county adopted the 4-H Calf Club. The club encouraged young people to study and prepare calves for judging at the county fair. Not only do kids expense the purchasing of their animal, feed, and supplies, but they feed, train, and prepare their animals for showing. Today, they still have high participation rates. Now its coursework includes teachings kids as young as seven years old how to care for, communicate with, and ride horses. This fair gives the youth an opportunity to demonstrate the skills they learn with the club, just as it did nearly 100 years ago. By the time the Weber County Fair became official, 4-H and Future Farmers of America joined together every year to put on the Junior Livestock Show and sell their animals. The money they make, unlike the funds talked about previously, go right to the youth.
There was a season, however, where the county saw no fair. Naturally, during World War II, they couldn’t wrangle enough participants. It was estimated in 1942 that there were only 500 out of 1,693 Weber County farmers who worked their farms with no outside jobs. So, they discontinued the fair that year.
Robert Hunter served on the Weber County Commission from 1981-1989. At the time, they were trying to attract tourists to the county. They began using the coliseum more. Its schedule got busier with more rodeos, livestock shows, and even car shows. Before Robert was chair, the county acquired some land from the Ogden Defense Depot. This depot had been selected by the U.S. Army as a general depot in 1935. Later, as Hill Air Force Base grew, there was no need for as much land, so they gave some to the county. Then, with Robert as chair, the commission took that land and built the fairgrounds. According to historians, Richard C. Roberts and Richard W. Sadler, “The building of the Weber County Fairgrounds on lands acquired from the Ogden Defense Depot in the Harrisville area is one of the most important things accomplished during the 1980’s.” Fellow Commissioner William A. Bailey had the vision to lead the project, while Commissioner Roger Rawson supported him.
County fairs were spaces where prize animals and home creations could be displayed and awarded a prize. That’s still the case today, with live music and demolition derbies sprinkled in. The fairgrounds are an asset to the community and provide a diverse gathering place for many types of events.