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History of the Southwest Florida & Lee County Fair....

 

In February 1919, the first Lee County Fair was held at Terry Park, a former cow pasture located just a couple of miles east of downtown Ft. Myers, on Palm Beach Boulevard.

The Lee County Commissioners allocated $250 for staff to put on the first Lee County Fair.

“Historical note: Circa 1910, the precursor of the Lee County Fair is a carnival that takes place on McGregor Boulevard and is sponsored by the Accelerator Club. It does not have the usual fair exhibits and amusements. Instead, the main draw is a Seminole Indian tribe that performs its tribal dances. The carnival’s history ends in 1917 when the United States enters World War I. "

In 1924, the name of the Lee County Fair was changed to the Southwest Florida Fair.

In 1927, the Lee County Commissioners spent $15,000 to renovate the fairground facilities at Terry Park. To promote the Fair opening day attendance, the City of Ft. Myers closed its offices and encouraged all businesses to do the same. First day attendance was 2,700. Attendance for all five days was 16,000, a record at that time. Some of the midway shows included contortionists and Buster, the world’s champion diving dog. There were also school exhibits and art and needlework exhibits. Fair admission was 50 cents.

“Historical note: The half mile track around the baseball stadium is first used during the Lee County Fair in 1922 for horseracing. At the time it was a dirt track. During the 1940's, because of lack of proper maintenance it becomes a grass track. By the early 1950's with few if any activities being held on it, the grass track blends into the grass- next to and around the track and disappears."

From 1947 to 1957 the Ft. Myers Shrine Club of Egypt Temple sponsors the Southwest Florida Fair and splits the profits with Lee County Commissioners. On February 1, 1955, 2550 people attended the opening day of the annual fair at Terry Park. The day began with a 2 mile parade from downtown Ft. Myers to the midway of the fair. Law enforcement officials closed down a “girlie show” on the midway that day because citizens felt that it was not acceptable for the family style fair.

In 1958 and 1959 the Page Club sponsored the Fair. In 1960 to 1978, the Southwest Florida Fair Association sponsored the Fair at Terry Park. In 1966, Tammy Wynette performed in the stadium during the Fair. She later became known for her hit “Stand By Your Man,” which became a #1 hit on country music charts and later was proclaimed the “greatest country song” of all time. In the late 1960’s, the Fair Board paid for a new Extension Services Office, located to the west of the main building. It housed fair exhibits and had office space for staff.

In 1978. the last of the SIXTY CONSECUTIVE FAIRS was held at Terry Park. The Fair moved to the new Lee County Civic Center in North Fort Myers in 1979. It had bigger parking areas and a bigger and better facility for the Fair.

 

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