Wyoming State Fair – 1947
It was 1905…Theodore Roosevelt was president. The Wright Brothers’ third airplane, aptly named the Wright Flyer III, logged 39 minutes of airtime with Wilbur flying. Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer were banned from the Brooklyn Public Library for setting a “bad example,” and America was amidst the Progressive Era.
Here in Wyoming, B.B. Brooks was governor and Douglas was preparing to host the first of what will soon be 100 Wyoming State Fairs. In 1905, thanks to a gift of land along the North Platte River from the North Western Railroad Company, the Wyoming State Fair and Rodeo came to its permanent home in Douglas. Henry Ford was marketing the Aerocar, but one can imagine that most attendees at this inaugural event arrived either horseback or in a horse drawn wagon or carriage. Several, from more distant locales, probably caught a train to Douglas.
It’s been 107 years since the first State Fair was held. Certain events in American history warranted canceling the Fair. It was canceled in 1935 and 1936 due to the Great Depression and in 1937 when there was an epidemic of infantile paralysis. It was canceled from 1942 to 1945, during WWII.
By the time the photo appearing in this column was taken in 1947, Wyomingites must have been more than ready to carry on their Wyoming State Fair traditions. Attendees lined up in the arena, and spectators lined the fences and filled the grandstands. The photograph within this column came from Bud Tillard’s collection. The Wyoming Pioneer Association is making the photograph into a poster to commemorate the 100th Wyoming State Fair and Rodeo. Subsequent posters, highlighting different years in State Fair history, are planned for the next few years.
As part of the effort, the Pioneers hope to document as many of the people in the photograph as possible. All but a couple dozen of those in the main row have been identified. It’s nearly impossible to identify the people along the fence or in the grandstand as they’re simply too small to see.
If you know someone in the main row of the photograph, please drop me an email or, better yet, stop by the Wyoming Pioneer Museum in Douglas and share the information. They have a copy of the photograph there. A supplement to the poster is being printed, and they’ll be distributed in unison.
While you’re at the museum, take a moment to explore the collections. If you haven’t before visited this central Wyoming treasure, plan on spending a little time. From Native American artifacts to State Fair history and interesting Wyoming tidbits, it’s a place worth visiting. If you’re coming to town for the State Fair, consider stopping then. Their air-conditioned building is always a nice break from the heat on the fairway!
Jennifer Vineyard Womack is executive director of the Wyoming FFA Foundation and a freelance writer. She can be reached at Womack@Wyoming.com or at 307-351-0730.