Saturday, August 23, 2003

Ky. fair good this year; centennial will be great

By Ellen R. Stapleton
The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - The horse owners won't pull out their trailers and the food vendors won't close up their stands until Sunday when the Kentucky State Fair ends its 11-day run. Yet plans are already in full swing for the 2004 fair - a 100th birthday party fitting for an event that has grown into a Kentucky trademark.

The centennial logo has been unveiled, and the call is out for contributions to a historical display titled "Kentucky State Fair 100: The Exhibition."

Curator Stephanie Darst is collecting items from past fairs - postcards, photographs, programs, buttons, newspaper clippings.

Darst said the exhibit will feature a decade-by-decade look at the fair, as well as sections on entertainment, fashion and competitive departments.

Items will date back to the first Kentucky State Fair, held at Churchill Downs in 1902.

The fair jumped around to various locations, including stints in Owensboro and Lexington, before the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center debuted in 1956.

The fair was canceled only three times - in 1904 because of legal disputes, and in 1944 and 1945 because defense industries for World War II moved in to the fairgrounds.

Fair spokeswoman Amanda Storment said the fair has grown in size and scope through the years, incorporating new elements as Kentucky life became less rural.

"The fair started out as a way to showcase agricultural products, things that (farmers) had grown and livestock they had raised," she said.

"It was also for the new inventions of the time. While we continue to ... highlight the livestock aspect, we have certainly grown into an entertainment venue for families."

In an effort to get this year's fair visitors thinking ahead, Memories Day took place Tuesday. Several people donated memorabilia, such as a 1958 program autographed by performers including The Mills Brothers and Randy Atcher. Another woman brought souvenir photographs taken when she attended the fair as a child in 1937.

"To me, the most interesting things are the pictures from the '20s and '30s," Darst said. "What's so funny is how people dressed up in their fur stoles and best suits to come to the fair."

Fair staff want to capture the unofficial history of the fair too. Seniors in Heritage Hall recounted their favorite fair memories for an anniversary video.

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