History of the Marquette County Fair
The Marquette County Fair started originally at the turn of the century by two early Marquette businessmen, Flanigan and Spear after seasons of arguing about who had the best vegetables. The original grounds were located on Spring Street. It was later moved to Lincoln Avenue where the National Guard Armory in the city of Marquette now sits on Wright Street, by the campus of Northern Michigan University. There was a track that circled around Norway Pines for racing horses and later,automobiles. The Marquette County Fair was closed so that the Armory could be built on the location during the early 1950s. When the Fair began again, the name was changed to the Marquette Harvest Festival. The Harvest Festival was a branch off of the Marquette County Potato Festival.
After the war, the Harvest Festival relied on the armories for holding the event, but the armories refused to allow animals inside the buildings, so the Lakeview Arena was used until the rent got too high. It was then decided to find land that was under the control of the Harvest Festival committee to build permanent grounds on, that could hold the Harvest Festival, various races and entertainment events.
In 1989, Charles Bergdahl called the state to find out if they could take advantage of the new Fair Enhancement Program. He was told that the Harvest Festival wasn't an eligible recipient, so proper paperwork was filled out and sent along with the fee of ten dollars and the Marquette County Fair was reborn.
The Marquette County Fairgrounds now sits on 200-acres of land that was bought from Sands Township in 1990. The local National Guard helped in preparing the fairgrounds for its first successful year in its new location located off County Road 553. The first buildings were put up by the local 4-H, the American Legion, and the fair board.
The attendance at the Marquette County Fair has continued to increase, despite the fact of declining agricultural backgrounds in the Upper Peninsula. The old traditions of the county fair are being combined with the new technology and ways of the twenty-first century to enhance the county fair.
Today, the Marquette County Fair includes a wide variety of livestock shows, a petting zoo, crafts, crops, antiques, carnival rides, races, magic shows, tractors, and lots more to come and enjoy as the Marquette County Fair continues to grow.
Todays County Fairs are becoming increasingly more important due to most people being one, two plus generations off the farm. A county fair is now not only a place that agricultural livestock and products compete, but a chance for people to learn about agriculture and how important agriculture is to everyone's daily life.
The Marquette County Fair is an independent 501-(c)-3 non-profit corporation with no formal or informal affiliation with any governmental agency or unit at the local, state, or federal level; including the County of Marquette. The board of directors consists of nineteen volunteers with full voting privileges and one non-voting honorary member. These residents and citizens serve at the pleasure of the board without compensation for their time and effort. Neither the fair as an entitiy nor, the individual directors receive any funding or compensation from the County, nor are they subject to any operational oversight or direction from the County as a governing body.