Reprinted here by special permission of the author, Cindy Beckman, a retired Conway High School history teacher who writes local history.
The Faulkner County Fair is a tradition that has been around since 1909. However it has not always been in the same location, nor was it always a free fair.
The first Faulkner County Fair was held October 4-7, 1909. The Faulkner County Fair Association, a corporation organized by the Conway Board of Trade, sold stock to raise the funds to build fairgrounds on forty acres in the eastern part of Conway.
The first fairground was a forty-acre tract bordered on the south by Oak Street, on the west by Harkrider Street, on the north by Mill Street and on the east by Ingram Street. A ten-foot fence was built around the fairgrounds which included a half-mile horse racing track, a 32’ x 80’ exhibit hall, a grandstand to seat 1,000, 25 horse stalls, a judge’s stand and a bandstand.
In addition to horse racing, there was a fireworks exhibit, midway shows, concessions, livestock exhibits, textile and culinary exhibits, a baby contest and a reunion of the United Confederate Veterans. According to witnesses, that baby contest was highly competitive since all mothers thought their child to be the cutest baby there.
Fair attendees were charged 50 cents for adults and 25 cents for children age six to twelve. Children under six could attend free. Faulkner County Fair Association stockholders were given season tickets. The Fair Association made a profit of about ten percent, paid off part of the debt and started making plans for the next year.
Five more fairs were held and the crowds grew. It was estimated that 12,000-15,000 attended the 1913 fair. But in 1914, the fair closed with a deficit of about $500 and in 1915, the fair manager said that due to the losses of the preceding two years, he could find no one to sponsor the event. There would not be another Faulkner County Fair until 1938 when the Young Business Men’s Association (Y.B.M.A) decided to sponsor a free fair.
This first free fair was held in a building at the northwest corner of Locust and Oak Street with a 21’ x 42’ tent set up just west of the building to house the livestock. It was a great success so it was decided to hold one every year. From 1939-1942, the fair returned to the old fairgrounds.
From 1942 to 1944, the fair was moved to the northwest corner of Van Ronkle and Markham Street and in 1945, the fair was held at the airport. Finally, in 1946, the fair found a more permanent home when the Y.B.M.A. bought a forty-acre tract bordered by Robins Street on the north, Center Street on the west, and South German Lane on the east.
From 1946-2010, the Faulkner County Fair was held at what became the Y.B. M.A. Fairgrounds. The carnival rides and midway attractions were bordered by the exhibit barns on the west and the livestock barns to the east. The fair was the place to hang out with your friends and be seen with that special someone. It was where little children rode their first merry-go-round. It was the place memories were made.
In 2010, Y.B.M.A. Fairgrounds became Conway Station Park, a 9-field boys’ baseball park. The Conway Expo Center and Fairgrounds, located at 2505 East Oak, is the new home for the Faulkner County Fair. For more information about the 77 th Annual Faulkner County Fair and Parade go to www.faulknercountyfair.net
(The source for the history found in the column today is Faulkner Land and People published by the Faulkner County Historical Society in 1986.)