|Lee County Iowa Fair History
On July 17, 1841 a group of people met at West Point, Iowa and
organized an Agricultural Society. Many of the finest honed cattle of
the Durham breed were brought in and exhibited. This exhibition
has gone on the records as the first held west of the Mississippi
River, as well as the first in Lee County and in Iowa.
The next year a three day exhibition was held in Keokuk, Iowa in
Lee County on the grounds of the Iowa Medical College. It may
have been the first to enforce the ruling that every animal exhibited
must be worth at least as much as the premium for which it was
shown. Premiums were offered amounting to $588.00 the total
amount paid was $219.00. The Society decided on a more
extensive promotion for the next year.
In 1855 the Agricultural Society moved back to West Point and first
titled it as the Lee County Fair. In 1856 the West Point citizens
pledged $500.00 for new fairgrounds and voted to make the town
the official and permanent site of the Lee County Fair. From that
year until 1870 the fair was held there annually the last week in
The town of Fort Madison became the favored site in 1870 after
residents had prepared fairgrounds and erected exhibition
buildings, also offering other unnamed inducements. It was held the
last week in September and was rescheduled through 1874.
The county fair lapsed from 1874 to 1878. It was then reorganized
and 20 acres of ground was acquired from a resident from
Donnellson, Iowa. When choosing the site at Donnellson it was
decided as being nearer the geographical center of the county
than its rivals. Since 1878 the Lee County Fair is held regularly at
the Donnellson site. 1930 the first night time fair was held. The fair
was cancelled in 1943 due to World War II.
The 1950s were difficult years in Lee County. In October 1953 a
tornado completely destroyed the amphitheater. However due to
cooperative hard working men a new bleacher type amphitheater
was ready by July for the 1954 fair. In 1955 the fair was cancelled
on week before opening. A local doctor, J.L. Saar, declared no
public gatherings should be held because of the polio epidemic in
Lee County and especially in Donnellson.
The rains in 1992 hurt the attendance at the fair, however all
events were held. More ground was purchased in 1996 and several
new buildings have been added to the grounds. The Lee County
Fair continues to grow thanks to the support from businesses and
the great many volunteers.
Courtesy of Cathy Holtkamp
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2019 LEE COUNTY FAIR BOARD