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July 8-10, 2022
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...

2021 Fairbook online!
[ CLICK HERE TO VIEW ]

THOMAS HALL & FLORAL HALL
Rental Calendar...

 

 

Thomas Hall - 2021

October 29, 30 & November 1 & 2 - Election Prep and Election

November 3 - Blood Drive - cancelled

November 6 - Private Rental - cancelled

November 13 - Private Rental

November 16 - Board

November 19 - 20 - Private Rental

November 21 - Private Rental

November 25 - Private Rental

December 11 - Private Rental

December 17 - 18 - Private Rental

December 24 - Private Rental

 

Keokuk County Fairgrounds - 2022

May 5 - 8 - Flea Market

May 21 - Figure 8's

June 4 - Figure 8's

July 4 - Figure 8's

July 8 - 10 - Keokuk County Fair

July 9 - Figure 8's

August 4 - 7 - Flea Market

August 27 - SIDS Walk

September 29 - October 2 - Flea Market

 

Thomas Hall - 2022

January 1 - Private Rental

Janurary 2 - Bingo

January 9 - Bingo

January 16 - Bingo with board following

January 23 - Bingo

January 30 - Bingo

February 6 - Bingo

February 13 - Bingo

February 20 - Bingo with board following

February 27 - Bingo 

March 6 - Bingo

March 12 - Freedom Rock

March 13 - Bingo

March 20 - Bingo with Board following

March 27 - Bingo

April 19 - Board

April 22 - May 5 - DO NOT RENT Ready for Flea Market

April 26 - Town and Country comes

April 28 - Farner order comes

May 5 - May 8 - Flea Market

May 9-11 - Inventory

May 13 & 14 - Private Rental

May 15 - Private Rental

May 17 - Board

July 5 - Board

July 6 - Set up Floral Hall for the Fair

July 7 - Early Entries

July 8-10 - Fair

July 26 - Town and Country comes

July 28 - Farner Comes

July 23 - August 3 - DO NOT RENT - Ready for Flea Market

August 4 - August 7 - Flea Market

August 8 - 10 - Inventory

August 14 - Private Rental

August 23 - Board

August 20 - Private Rental

August 21 - Private Rental

September 20 - Board

September 20 - Town and Country Comes

September 22 - Farner order comes

September 17 - Sseptember 28 - DO NOT RENT - Ready for Flea Market

September 29 - October 2 - Flea Market

October 3 - 5 - Inventory

November 7 & 8 - Election

November 15 - Board

November 24 - Private Rental

December 31 - Private Rental 

 

Thomas Hall - 2023

May 13 - Private Rental

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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