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July 13-15, 2018
what cheer, iowa

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History of the Keokuk County Fair

What Cheer, Iowa officially became a town in 1865. By the late 1880’s, What Cheer had become a “boom town” due to the extensive deposits of coal in the area. Two railroads serviced the town carrying both freight and passengers. There were 13 mines in operation as well as more than 50 manufacturing and processing plants. Among the many products made were mining tools, wood stoves, buttons, overalls, shoes, and soft drinks.

Immigrants from several European countries came to work in the mines. The population in 1889 was estimated at 5,000 in What Cheer proper. Eight mining camps just outside of What Cheer added to the area’s population.

In June 1889, a group of civic minded residents met to discuss the idea of having a “fair” in What Cheer. The group proceeded to sell shares to raise money and elected officers from the shareholders. In the next 3 months, land at the north edge of What Cheer was purchased from Samuel McFarlan, a race track was graded, a floral hall, judge’s stand, an amphitheater, and barns were erected.

Opening day of the What Cheer District Fair was October 2, 1889. The local newspaper reported people poured in from every direction in horse drawn vehicles and on the passenger trains. Enterprising men sold rides to the fairgrounds from the train stations in hacks for 10 cents. The fairground was packed with people and exhibits. Entertainment included horse and bicycle races.

In the early years, the Floral Hall was filled with exhibits similar to those filling it today. The barns contained horses, cattle, sheep, hogs, rabbits, and poultry.

Over the years, grandstand entertainment has included concerts, thrill shows, circus acts, dog races, wrestling, talent contests, rodeos, harness horse races, and figure 8 car races.

The fairground is used now for a variety of interim events outside of fair week.
Harness racing has been a constant at the fairgrounds since the first fair. From 1985-1988, pari-mutuel betting on the races was held during the fair. There will be 10 days of harness racing on the fairgrounds in 2015.

Figure 8 races were first held on the fairgrounds in 1991. There are 5 race dates scheduled this year.

Bingo is played every Sunday afternoon from January through March in Thomas Hall. Several family celebrations are held each year in Thomas Hall, also.

The largest event held on the fairgrounds currently is the Collectors’ Paradise Flea Market. It is held on the first full weekends of May, August, and October. Larry and Phyllis Nicholson held their first flea market in June 1977. There were 20 dealers plus food concessions set up in Floral Hall. Now there are hundreds of dealers participating from throughout the Midwest covering the entire fairgrounds. 5 concession stands manned by volunteers from community organizations serve food for 4 days. The Nicholsons retired from the flea market in 2014. Bill Ludwig is now the onsite flea market manager.

* Some of the photos on this site have been contributed by Mendy McAdams of Mini's Many Moments.

LATESTNews...

2018 Fair Results
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2018 Fairbook online!
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THOMAS HALL & FLORAL HALL
Rental Calendar...

 

Thomas Hall

November 18 - Private Rental - tentative

November 20 - Board

November 22 - Private Rental

November 28 - Blood Drive

December 1 - Private Rental

December 16 - Fair Board Christmas Potluck

December 25 - Private Rental

December 29 - Private Rental

 

 

Keokuk County Fairgrounds - 2019

May 2,3, 4 & 5 - Flea Market

June  21,22,23 - ABATE

July 12, 13, & 14 - Keokuk County Fair

August 1, 2, 3, & 4 - Flea Market

August 24 or 31 - SIDS Walk

August 31 & September 1 - Horse Races?

September 7 & 8 - Horse Races?

September 13, 14 & 15 - Car Show?

October 2, 3, 4, 5, & 6 Flea Market

Thomas Hall 2019

January 6 - March 31 - Bingo

January 20 - Board

January 30 - Blood Drive

February 17 - Board

March 2 - Freedom Rock Supper

March 3 - Firemen's Breakfast

March 17 - Board

March 27 - Blood Drive

April 16 - Board

April 20 through May 5 Flea Market

May 9  - Private Rental- tentative

May 10 - Private Rental

May 11 - Private Rental

May 21 - Board

May 22 - Blood Drive

June 1 - Private Rental

June 18 - Board

July 6 & 7 - Private Rental

July 9 - Board?

July 12 - 14 - Keokuk County Fair

July 16 - Board

July 20 through August 4 - Flea Market

August 11 - Private Rental

August 17 - Private Rental

August 18 - Private Rental

August 20 - Board

September 7 - Private REntal

September 17 - Board

September 18 - Blood Drive

September 21 through October 6 - Flea Market

October 22 - Stockholder?

October 26 - Firemen?

October 27 - FFA?

November 19 - Board

November 27 - Blood Drive

November 28 - Private Rental

 

Floral Hall - 2019

May 11 - Private Rental

Keokuk County Fairgrounds - 2020

April 30, May 1, 2, & 3 - Flea Market

June 19 - 21 - ABATE

July 10 - 12 - Fair

July 30, 31, August 1 & 2 - Flea Market

October 1, 2, 3 & 4 - Flea Market

Thomas Hall - 2020

May 8 - Private Rental

May 9 - Private Rental

June 6 - Private Rental

Thomas Hall - 2021

 May 8 or day of graduation - Private Rental

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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