The History of The Fair

Here is a brief history of the Johnson County Fair and the Johnson County Agricultural Association.


It all started when…

In October of 1853, the Johnson County Agricultural Mechanical Society was formed. They were responsible for the operation of the County Fairs until 1917. The First County Fair was held on the Capital Square, which today is know as the Pentacrest. 5000 people attended, and the fair was deemed a great success after a $8 net profit.

The first Fair Grounds was located at Ward Way Plaza, in the current location of Fin and Feather. It was held here from 1860 until 1889. In 1860, the State Fair was held in the same location.

The second Fairgrounds was located east of Iowa City, near Iowa City High School. It was first held there in 1890, with Morningside Drive being the west side of the race track.

Between 1920 and 1928, the Johnson County 4-H organization was being formed. They held achievement shows/fairs during this time frame, but were on a much smaller scale than previous Fairs. The shows focused on youth and youth projects.

The first Johnson County 4-H Fair was held in 1929. The livestock shows were held at the sale barn, which is the current location of Hills Bank on Gilbert St. The girls club exhibited at the Iowa City Community Center. Up until 1949 the Fair was held at various locations in Iowa City, including the Sales Barn, Corn Canning Factory, and at Iowa Stadium (Kinnick) in the 1930’s.

In April of 1949, The Johnson County Agricultural Association was former after several years of meetings. The current Fairgrounds was purchased in 1952, and included 16.5 acres. Tents housed the livestock exhibits and the girls had their achievement days at the IC Community Center.

In 1953 Barn 1, known as the Dairy Barn was completed. In 1954, the basement was completed for Montgomery Hall, named after H.J. Montgomery the County Extension director in 1960. The upper floor was completed in 1956. Also in 1956 Barn 2, the hog barn, was completed. The Cattle barn, Barn 3, was built in 1959. In 1960 the Exhibit Hall, Building A, was completed. In 1964 the Show Barn was built, followed by the Food Booth. During 1976 the County Extension office was completed and is now the Fairgrounds Office. Our newest building was completed in 2003, Building C. Every year we strive to make updates and improvements to all our buildings, yet keep the nostalgic feel of our history.

Today, The Johnson County Agricultural Association, along with The Johnson County Extension Office strive to give the community the best Fair possible. Countless volunteer hours each year from members and the community are put in to help make the Fair and Fairgrounds the best it can be. Thank you to all who help and come out to the Johnson County Fair and Fairgrounds.