RV Park Year Round
Buy Tickets
Home > General > Tulelake Butte Valley Fair History

Tulelake Butte Valley Fair History

The Tulelake-Butte Valley Fair is an outgrowth of the Rotary Junior Livestock Show, which was organized and supported by the Tulelake Rotary Club in 1949, 1950 and 1951. These shows were held on the grounds of the present Elementary School. Prior to the time of the Livestock Shows, it was necessary for young exhibitors to take their livestock to Yreka to the Siskiyou Golden Fair.

When Chet Main, Dan Crawford, Ivan Rose, Charlie Weiss and Otto Schultz contacted Sacramento with the idea of establishing a fair in Tulelake, they were told there was no possibility. It had been decreed by the powers that be that there were to be no more fairs established under any circumstances in the State of California.

Chet and his committee, and undoubtedly many others, went to work on Senator Collier and Assemblyman Lester Davis to get this decision reconsidered and allow us to build our fair for Butte Valley and Tulelake.

Despite the objections of the Western Fairs Association, a bill was passed in the California State Legislature authorizing the organization of the 10-A District Agricultural Associations, so named because it took part of the territory of the 10th District Agricultural Association (Siskiyou Golden Fair in Yreka).

Governor Earl Warren appointed the first fair board of eight men. It consisted of Chet Main, Bill Hagelstein, Webb Staunton, Pete Bergman, Arnold Criss, Vern Hemstreet, Toad Boyd, and Paul Christy. Chet Main was elected President.

At the first meeting of the Fair Board in February of 1952, the board took up a collection to get started since there were no funds. At the end of the first meeting we had a budget of $7. There were no grounds to hold a fair, so arrangements were made to hold the first fair on the old high school lawn. The carnival was set up in the street in front of the Legion Hall along side the old bowling alley. Vern Hemstreet contributed a hog, which was auctioned off over and over to get the premium money for livestock awards before we became a state fair.

Since there were no grounds, we could get no money for buildings or anything else except bare essentials for administration. The board looked the situation over and went after the present site, which was then Don Potter's alfalfa field, but owned by the Bureau of Reclamation. Thanks to the efforts of Congressman Clair Engel and many others, we were finally able to get title to this land through an act of Congress in Washington D.C. and could go ahead with Plans for buildings and grounds.

What do you do when you have a 35-acre alfalfa field and somebody tells you to build a fair on it? The first question the board had was, What kind of a fair did they want to see here in twenty years from now? They wanted our fair to be a place where the people of Butte Valley and Tulelake, and our friends from over the line in Oregon could meet and visit and compete and enjoy each others projects and things of mutual interest. They wanted our fair to be a place with winding curbless streets and green lawns with benches for neighbors to stop and visit and rest a spell under a shade of trees. They wanted our fair to be a place where parents could lose their kids without fear of them being hurt and where kids could wander away from their parents knowing they would be found and they were among friends. They wanted our fair to be a place where there would be easy entrance to all buildings so people in wheelchairs or disabled could move as freely as possible wherever they wished. They wanted to see the grounds and building maintained so people take pride in THEIR fair. They wanted the fair put together so maximum use could be made of the buildings and grounds throughout the year by the local schools, community groups and citizens. Their feeling was that the more our fairgrounds could be put to use the year around the better it could be justified. These were the basic ideas the Fair Board started to work with.

Sam Kellet was the manager of the fair in 1952. In May 1953 the Board hired William C. Whitaker as manager since he had experience with fairs in Utah. He was instructed to draw up a master plan for the construction of the fair. The plan was completed and approved by the State Department of Architecture in late 1953 and construction began in the spring of 1954. Leona Carter was the tried and true secretary from the very beginning. The first fair on the present fair grounds was held on Labor Day weekend in 1954. The buildings consisted of two cattle barns, one restroom, and auction building which that year was also used for indoor exhibits (the present auction barn). Construction continued as funds became available: 1955- underground sewer, water and electricity, office building, main exhibit building; 1956-commercial building, sheep & swine barn; 1957-home economics building, concession building, horse barns; 1959- grandstands, paving, maintenance shop (present office/museum building); 1962-two restrooms; 1963-carousel; 1964-judging arena (present shop); 1967-sheep/swine barn (present enclosed sheep & goat barn); 1968- arts & crafts building; 1970- concession building.

In 1967 Mr. Whitaker resigned to take another position and Mark Reed was hired for two years. He was replaced by Ralph Morrill, who was a natural since he had been Senior Maintenance Supervisor for 14 years. Ralph Morrill meticulously put the pieces together and maintained the entire operation so that our fair is a matter of great pride throughout the entire Klamath Basin.

It must be understood by all who read this, that there is no tax money involved in the construction or operations of this fair. All funds are derived from 2% of the funds raised by a tax on pari-mutuel betting on horse racing at California tracks.

Leona Carter retired in December of 1982. In 1983, Cindy Wright was hired as business assistant. She had been a seasonal worker with the fair since 1970. Ralph Morrill retired in May of 1987 and Cindy Wright was hired to replace him. Cindy has since retired in 2006. Dave Dillabo took the lead as CEO from 2006-2015 and is now with the California Department of Food and Agriculture Fairs and Expos division. Nancy Sites was named as the new CEO in May of 2016.
Back to
Buy Tickets