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Cass County Fairs: 162 year history

Researched and Submitted by Ron Rushly

Pleasant Hill can certainly be called the “fair city” of Cass County! Research at the Pleasant Hill Museum has turned up interesting historical facts.

Before 1900

According to the 1883 History of Cass and Bates Counties, the first fair was held in 1854. “The first fair was a rather primitive one. The ring was formed by stretching a rope around the ground to be used as such and the wagons and carriages were backed up for seats. These latter did not suffice and many of the lads and lasses made their seat on Mother Earth and her carpet of green.” Those early fairgrounds were located near where the weather station is standing today.

Civil war clouds overshadowed the fair after 1860. That same 1883 history says, “During the late Civil War, the Cass County Agricultural and Mechanical Association suspended its labors and fairs were a thing of the past. The grounds were held by the contending hosts, first one, then the other, for camping purposes; and, when peace once more cast its beacon of light and life upon the people, they felt more like building up their waste places than trying to reorganize the gala week of Ante Bellum Times. By 1868 the association was reorganized and Cass County had a fair again.”

The Pacific Railroad had come through south of town in 1865 and the town moved its downtown to the railroad where it remains today.

In 1870 the fairgrounds moved to the east of the new downtown where 58 Highway is now. There on 40 acres they built a beautiful fairgrounds, one of the best in the state. During this time, the association was reorganized again and named the Pleasant Hill Agricultural and Mechanical Association.

The history of 1883 contained an interesting quote about this organization: “The people of Pleasant Hill take pride in their annual fair and show a liberal as well as a commendable spirit in assuring their success.”

One hundred and twenty four years later that very same commendable spirit of volunteerism is what drives this successful Cass County Fair.

Street Fair

Crowds were reported to be as large as 15,000 people. 1940 was the first live remote radio broadcast from the Pleasant Hill Fair. Radio station KITE, Kansas City, broadcast the school band performing a 30-minute program with ads for events going on at the fair.

The Street Fairs continued throughout the 1940s. In the 50s and 60s festivals with carnivals and parades replaced the fair.

In 1968 or 1969 the West Central District came to Pleasant Hill and ran until 1978.

Rebirth of a Fair

After a long dry fair spell, in 1994, the Cass County Fair was formed by the City of Pleasant Hill. The old sawmill site on Big Creek west of town on Highway 58 was purchased for the bargain price of $10,000.

Hundreds of volunteers have donated thousands of man hours (and woman hours) of labor to build Pleasant Hill’s third fairgrounds and do “whatever is necessary” to see that each year’s fair is a great success. The Cass County Fair has grown to be the largest “new fair” in Missouri.

Times and people have changed over these many, many years yet that “liberal and commendable spirit” is alive and well at the 24th Cass County Fair that begins July 11th and continues through Sunday the 16th.

Come join us as we make some more history!
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