RIVERSIDE — The first “fair” in Okanogan County took place in the now-small town of Riverside.
Due to the size of Riverside in the early part of the 20th century, the area appealed to local residents as the ideal place to host a gath-ering that later became the Okanogan County Fair.
In 1905, the first gathering of local farmers and ranchers took place in Riverside. Residents showed cattle, horses and other livestock. Women brought homemade goods, and other necessities (grains, vegetables, sheep, chickens, and fruit) were present to show and sell in the bustling town.
At the time of the first fair, Riverside offered two hotels, a doctor’s office, law office, land office, meat market, bank, harness shop, blacksmith, drug store, jewelry store, and two large department stores.
In 1915, four stage couches left Riverside for Okanogan, Oroville, Synarep, and the county seat in Conconully returning with fair judg-es from all over the county.
The Riverside Fair hosted horse racing, bucking contests (later saddle bronc) dancing, and stick games, and eventually, an exhibition tent was added. Riverside had bid for the county seat to be moved to town (from Conconully) because of the fairgrounds.
Riverside lost the bid for the seat change in 1915 and half of the town of Riverside was destroyed by fire leaving the question of where to hold the county fair.
In 1912, in the City of Oroville, a fair was held in the Cumming store. The fair was by the account a success with, “a large crowd that at-tended, and many exhibits were on display,” according to historic records.
The fair was moved to what is now Osoyoos Lake Veteran’s Memorial Park. At the time, Oroville was a fast-growing town made known for the diversity in crops including tomatoes.
“Located on the Okanogan River, just south of the International Boundary, Oroville remained the rendezvous of prospectors and cow-boys until the Great Northern made it the terminus for a line from Spokane, and several years later another branch northward from Wenatchee,” said Black Dimond History, an online website dedicated to historic information.
With the Great Northern Railway bringing passengers from as far away as Spokane (and later Wenatchee), Oroville seemed like the ideal location for the county fair after the devastating fire in the town of Riverside.
With train riders adventuring the state the Great Northern also brought passengers to a vast land, with opportunities where they could homestead and start a life far less expensive than Spokane or Wenatchee.
In 1913, the Oroville Grange Hall held the county fair, with record attendance at that time of 2,500 people. The fair grew each year and by 1932, the Okanogan County Fair had the first 4-H entries.
In 1932, the fair had almost doubled in size with the addition of 4-H competitions. Continued 4-H entries and competition have been strong ever since the first entry.
(Editor’s note: This is first story in an ongoing series about the history of the Okanogan County Fair.)
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