Celebrating 60 years of Clay County Fairs

Editor’s note: This is the third and final installment of a column compiled by Sharron Jensen that tells the history of the Clay County Fair. The 2013 Clay County Fair opened Thursday in Vermillion, and will conclude Aug. 10.

In February 1953 the committee met and the proposed articles of incorporation were explained by Mr. Weeks. Wm. Gibson proposed the name of The Clay County Agricultural Fair Association, Inc.

The board of directors was set at no less than three and no more than 15. It was to be a non-profit organization with no capitol stock and memberships were to be sold at $10 each. The articles of incorporation were approved at this meeting. The incorporators and temporary board members were O.S. Westburg, Les Zeller, Mrs. Walter Hendricks, J.H. Litzelman, Sidney Abild, Conrad Westlund, Ralph Leer and Mrs. Everett Lewison.

The proposed by-laws set the number of directors at 11, of which three shall be 4-H leaders, and one from each: Clay County Farm Bureau, Clay County Farmers Union, Corn Belt feeders, Vermillion Chamber of Commerce, Clay County Home Extension Clubs and three members at large.

Also serving as ex-officio members was the Vermillion mayor, one county commissioner, the home agent and the county agent.

In March of 1953 the certificate of corporation was received from the secretary of state. The by-laws were adopted and membership’s certificates went on sale.

The first board members were O.S. Westburg, Mrs. Hendricks, Les Zeller (4-H leaders), Conrad Wastlund (Farmer Union), Sidney Abild (Farmer Bureau), Mrs. Everett Lewison (Home Extension Clubs), J.H. Litzelman (Corn Belt Feeders),Wm. Gibson (Chamber of Commerce), Eldon Olson, Tom Walker and Mrs. Leo Trudeau (Members at Large).

The first officers were as president O.S. Westburg, Conrad Wastlund as vice president, and Mrs. Walter Hendricks serving as secretary/treasurer.

In April of 1953 a committee was appointed to work out a working agreement with the County commissioners. This committee was composed of R.L. Vernard, J.H. Litselman and Martin Weeks, Jr.

A finance committee was set up to work out fundraising plans. Mr. Bondus and then Mr. Crew was chairman of this group and more than $8,000 was raised. A building development committee was set up with H.O. Gunderson, Mr. Welch, Mr. Venard and Ralph Leer. The ground development committee was Conrad Wastlund, Hans P.M. Hansen and Mrs. Leo Trudeau.

In June of 1953 Mr. Weeks had the working agreement ready to present to the county commissioners. In July the board met with the county commissioners and asked for a definite amount of money be set up to operate the fair grounds and for a building fund. The commissioners asked for more information on what kind of buildings were desired, cost and a map of were buildings would be placed.

The building committee visited the National Guard Building and the REA building to get an idea of what size of building would be needed on fair grounds. In August this information was given to the commissioners. The board was then advised that the county commissioners had set up a proposed budget of 3/10 mill levy for the fair grounds.

Mr. Gunderson read a letter from the attorney general that stated the county commissioners could not incur any indebtedness for a building. The building plans would be tabled until the money could be raised.

Mr. Crew, representing the Lions Club, told the board that the club would like to build a beef barn on the grounds for 4-H, a building 26 by 100 feet with “no strings attached,” with a concrete floor and built to the board’s specification. His offer was accepted.

The first annual meeting was held on Nov. 9, 1953. The membership books were ready and memberships sold for $10 each, and by December there was a balance of more than $5,000.

In February 1954 the building committee decided the new building would be 50 feet by 100 feet instead of the smaller size proposed.

In August the first achievement Days were held at the fairgrounds with the girl’s exhibits held downtown. The beef barn was presented to the Fair Association and the bill of sale turned over to them. The working agreement with the commissioners was amended so joint funds could be used for the building fund, and the building committee was authorized to proceed with building plans. The bid of $21,597 was accepted and the building was started.

In August of 1955 the city put up lights on the grounds and the substation was placed in October. The city requested permission to build a warehouse on the grounds.

In 1956 heat and lights were put in the new building and in 1957 the livestock scales were purchased and a 4-H livestock sale was held.

In 1958 bids were asked for the kitchen and bathroom edition but were too high so the building was rented out to Darrell Christensen of Yankton for roller-skating. The fee was $125 a month.

In 1959 a new lease was signed with the county commissioners and the certificates of membership were amended to be transferable. The Chamber of Commerce offered to pay half of the insurance premium carried on achievement days.

March of 1960 bids were re-opened for the kitchen addition to the new building. The bid on $21,600 was accepted and the work was to be done by July 15, 1960.

In 1962 chairs and caddies were bought. In 1963 the acoustic tile ceiling was installed in the large room and new light fixtures.

To quote Mrs. Hendricks, this is a “hitting the high spots” of the first 11 years of the Clay County Agricultural Fair Association, Inc.

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