Sue Ebensberger, President
Mike Sterling, Vice President
Inger Johnson, Secretary
Kathy Meyer, Treasurer
An aerial view of the 2012 Butler County Fair.
The Butler County Fair was established in 1856 and was originally called "The Butler County Agricultural and Horticultural Society". Even in an era when villages had not yet become towns, the early settlers of the area recognized the need to advance and educate the increasing rural population. The Association minutes from 1866 read "The object of the Butler County Agricultural and Horticultural Society is to prepare suitable buildings and enclose grounds for the purpose of holding fairs and to offer suitable premiums for the encouragement of Agricultural, Horticultural, and Mechanical pursuits and the improvement of stock and productions of Butler County." It wasn't until the 31st annual fair that the association settled on it's present location in Allison.
From the early days the fair has been much about competition - from who had the best stock, to who was the best baker. There was always sport competitions from the best ball teams to the fastest runners - both man and beast. Challenges which today would fall into the category of "Ripley's Believe It or Not" were already a part of the competition. In 1914 a special feature was 'Old Settler's Day'. The longest Butler County resident was given a gold headed cane or parasol. The oldest person was given the same, the tallest and heaviest were given wallets, and the man with the largest family was given a sack of flour.
The early fairs also provided a vital opportunity to educate. In 1911 a Baby Health Contest was held, greatly increasing education on the proper care and feeding of children. The Baby Health Contest provided doctors and nurses to examine small children. Prizes were given in different age categories of town and country babies who rated the best in overall health.
In 1956 the Butler County Fair - as it has come to be known - celebrated it's centennial. Among our records of that prestigious event are a Western Union Telegraph from United States President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, sending his congratulations and best regards for our celebration and for progress and prosperity through the decades to come. Also received was a greeting from Iowa's Governor Leo A. Hoegh sending best wishes and congratulations. Governor Hoegh states "The sons and daughters of Butler County have been leaders in all phases of business, agriculture, and government."
The fair, as the citizens of Butler County, have produced much to be proud of. From the many who have given of their time and their vision to establish the tradition to those who have, over the course of a century-and-a-half, worked to preserve our heritage. Our focus remains the same through the ages..."The encouragement of Agricultural, Horticultural, and Mechanical pursuits and the improvement of stock and productions of Butler County."
The Butler County Fair Foundation has been instrumental in raising funds for several improvements
on the fair grounds in the past decade. These improvements have made the grounds more accessible and enjoyable for thousands of visitors each year - whether it is to enjoy the fair, or one of the other events that take place on these facilities. The project we have set our sites on is to build a new restroom and first-aid facility at the grand-stand entrance.
To lay the groundwork to finance such a project the foundation will have an on-going campaign
selling three sizes/prices of ENGRAVED BRICKS. The bricks will (initially) be laid in the courtyard
between the floral hall and exhibit buildings at the main gate entrance.
Visiting with people who have already purchased a brick has been a very endearing trip down memory
lane. It has been rewarding to hear the stories of people wishing to honor loved-ones, and cherish
their fair memories. While searching old records for the years of service of past Fair Board President
and Director, J Francis Allan, we uncovered a telegraph received from United States President Dwight
D Eisenhower congratulating the citizens of Butler County the Fair’s centennial in 1956.
The Codners, too, shared stories of relatives homesteading in Butler County. The legacy they have
left behind, and impact they had on creating Butler County’s business development. But one of my favorite
bricks is from Carol Ann Kruse, faithful fixture of the floral hall, who simply states “I Love the
Butler County Fair!”
It is the wishes of the Fair Foundation that everyone who holds fond memories of fair experiences,
or the people who have played a role in making Butler County the great county it is today, will choose to
join in this campaign to keep our facilities accessible for generations to come. The three sizes of bricks
range in price from $125 to $500. Your tax-deductible donation will not only make these improvements
possible, but will be a continuing reminder for you and all our visitors, of what it took to create the
strength of Butler County.
See our brick display on the grounds during the fair for a chance to share your story and ‘put your
memories in stone’ while supporting this worthy cause. Or contact Jennifer Heeren, BCF Foundation
Chairman at (319)267-2378. We’ll be glad to help you Leave Your Mark on Memory Lane!