May 21, 2018 – West Bend, WI – The 2018 Washington County Fair is still a couple months away but let’s take a brief trip back in time and run a history check on the first fairgrounds and an interesting part of local history featuring the old wooden grandstand.
The original County Fairgrounds were in West Bend near Wilson Avenue and North Street from 1858 – 1937; where Fair Park School is currently located.
A photo from the History Center of Washington County provides a unique look at the grandstand as it overlooked the dirt racetrack. There were actually two grandstands at the County Fair. The other, according to an article by Jack Anderson, “provided seating for the fair’s baseball diamond.”
Believe it or not, it was the grandstand that helped draw attractions and added attendance to the County Fair, but that facility also added the most financial burden as well.
Some of the programs at the grandstand, according to archives at the History Center of Washington County, included surrey races, auto racing, an afternoon livestock parade, “plowing contests with both horses and oxen.”
Another photo from circa 1910 courtesy You Know You are From West Bend, shows the two grandstands and the surrey racing on the track.
It’s interesting to note the tidbit from the West Bend Democrat in 1898. The brief cited the attendance and the ‘long needed grandstand’ but also noted “A number of farmers …. were fleeced of their cash.. as a gang of pickpockets plied their trade.”
The fairgrounds fell into foreclosure in 1937. An article in the WBBA program from 2012 noted the grandstand was “disassembled and used to build the smaller, 108.9 foot by 26.1 foot grandstand at Carl M. Kuss Memorial Baseball Field.”