Tag Archives: Davis County Fair

Lagoon And The Fair, Part II: The Utah State Fair

State Fair at Lagoon
Concept of Utah State Fair at Lagoon published in Deseret News.

By the mid-1960s, the Davis County Fair had not been held in its original location at Lagoon for roughly 20 years. The much larger Utah State Fair, with a history dating back to 1856, had been utilizing the same buildings for about 60 years. In August 1964, Lagoon manager Robert Freed sent a proposal to the president of the Utah State Fair Board suggesting the state fair move to Lagoon. As reported by the Deseret News, Freed’s proposal outlined the following benefits of having the state fair at Lagoon:

1. It would become truly a ‘State Fair’ by locating on a multi-lane interstate highway, midway between Utah’s two largest cities and population centers.

2. Lagoon’s facilities, promotional program and ‘wholesome image’ would enhance the fair and increase its attendance.

3. The amusement park’s midway with its ‘reasonable operation and control’ would remove any transient carnival atmosphere from the fair. Lagoon’s lower-than-usual midway prices would not be increased during the fair.

4. The fair board and manager could concentrate on the fair itself and dispense with the problem of building maintenance during the 355 days of the year when the fair is not held.

5. The fair can be self-supporting without capital investment by the state for remodeling or contracting concessionaires.

6. Fair facilities will no longer compete with private enterprise during the non-operating part of the year.

7. Problems of parking, congestion and antiquated buildings will be eliminated by moving to Lagoon.

8. New Lagoon buildings would provide the fair with a ‘new look.’

9. Other state fairs have ‘flourished’ under a similar arrangement – the Texas State Fair, for example, held at a Dallas permanent amusement park.

10. The state can dispose of present fair property at a profit or use it for other purposes.

11. Complaints of noise and congestion by neighbors of present fair property would be eliminated by moving from a residential location.

In a way, having the state fair at Lagoon would also extend the operating season at a time when the park usually closed down after Labor Day. The tentative plans included extensive changes to the north end of the park. The Ferris Wheel which stood at the end of the Midway would have been moved further north to allow the installation of a fountain and a new entryway on the other side of the Patio Gardens dance pavilion. More rides would have been added even further north with new picnic pavilions doubling as exhibition buildings during the fair. The new buildings would have been inter-connected in “a contemporary architectural style” – much like an outdoor shopping mall (as shown in the illustration above). A new grandstand was also to be built with a ½-mile race track modified from the existing, defunct track.

Proposed layout of State Fair at Lagoon
Proposed layout of the Utah State Fair at Lagoon printed in Deseret News, August 1964.

The process of finalizing plans wouldn’t have been a simple process. After being agreed upon by the Utah State Fair Board, the 1965 Utah Legislature would have had to change the state constitution which required the fair to be in the capitol city. Then it would need to be included on the November 1966 election ballot for voters to consider.

Even though the president of the Fair Board said there was a possibility of the plan being accepted, no further reports on the plan’s rejection¹ seem to have been printed in papers. Instead, just a matter of weeks later, Davis County Fair officials were reportedly giving serious consideration to moving the county fair back to Lagoon. They had recently sold the fairgrounds near Davis High School in Kaysville to the school district and were looking for a new venue for the fair. In the spring of 1965, an agreement was made between the Davis County Fair and Lagoon, but some of the plans announced for the Utah State Fair were still going forward on a smaller scale. A new expansion on the north end of the Midway that year featured a new fountain as planned for the state fair. Other additions originally planned for the state fair such as the Davis Pavilion and Davis Stadium were completed soon after. Opera House Square was added in 1968 on the east end of what would have been the new entrance and the further expansion to the north never took place until 1986 after the county fair relocated once again and new rides were installed on the former grounds.

There are other connections between Lagoon and the Utah State Fair, but more information is still needed. I have come across some references that suggest Lagoon may have operated rides at the state fair for an unknown period of time. Also, a former employee once told me Lagoon’s Sky Slide was sold to the state fair in the ’70s or ’80s.

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LINKS

Lagoon And The Fair, Part I: The Davis County Fair

Lagoon And The Fair, Part III: The World’s Fair

Lagoon ’65

Lagoon And The Fair Gallery

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NOTES

1. It’s likely plans for the state fair at Lagoon were simply abandoned once it was apparent that the Davis County Fair had a greater need for space like what was available at Lagoon. Over the years, consideration has been given to moving the state fair to other places like the Salt Palace and the Weber County Fairgrounds in Ogden, but the Utah State Fair continues to be held at the Fairpark in Salt Lake City. The original buildings have since been remodeled or torn down.

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SOURCES

Why Not Move Fair To Lagoon?. Deseret News, 13 Aug 1964.

State Fair At Lagoon? Board Ponders the Move. Davis County Clipper, 21 Aug 1964.

Lagoon Sets 69th Season. Deseret News, 26 May 1965.

3 are still recovering from Friday slide rides. Deseret News, 14 Sep 1983.

Lagoon Summer Shows. Deseret News, 23 Jul 1993.

Palmer, Douglas D. Fair board to study Weber offer. Deseret News, 3 Aug 1994.

Whirlwind Update and More. Email message to author, 20 Oct 2005.

History of the Fair. UtahStateFair.com, accessed 12 Sep 2012.

Lagoon And The Fair, Part I: The Davis County Fair

Davis County Fair at Lagoon 1906
Part of an advertisement for the 1906 Davis County Fair at Lagoon from the Davis County Clipper.

In the days before big box retailers and internet shopping, state and county fairs were prime opportunities for exhibiting locally-produced goods to nearby areas, aside from being major community events.

It was especially important in the comparatively isolated settlements of Utah before the introduction of major railroads. The first territorial fair was held as early as 1856. Years before Lagoon opened, Farmington – a centrally-located county seat – was considered as a possible host for a fair in Davis County. One of the first recorded references to this was probably a letter to the editor printed in the Davis County Clipper in 1892 when the county’s population was around 7,000 people. It stated, “We have been waiting for the bright minds of Farmington to suggest means for a County Fair to be held in that place about September 25th next.”

The idea was tossed around for years afterward. A large meeting was held at the Kaysville Music Hall in June 1906 to discuss the possibility of a fair in Davis County. The meeting featured speeches punctuated by performances from the county’s three brass bands. According to a news report, one speaker “pointed out in glowing terms the great resources of the county, what she could produce from her soil, her livestock and manufacturing industries, etc. and also the great benefits the county and her people would derive from exhibiting her products to the other counties of Utah and perhaps other states.” Residents voted unanimously to hold the first Davis County Fair that fall at Lagoon. Simon Bamberger, founder of Lagoon and a senator at the time, also spoke saying, “The Lagoon is at your service,” and told those in attendance, “you have the best county in the state.”

After the success of that first fair, a Davis County Clipper article stated, “The Lagoon is an ideal place for holding a fair as there are so many suitable buildings and outdoor attractions.” However, it seems the fair was not initially intended to be an annual event at that point in time. The next fair was two years later when Davis County joined Box Elder, Morgan and Weber counties in the Big Four County Fair. The combined fair was hosted at the Ogden fairgrounds for a number of years as it grew to include counties in neighboring states as well. Davis County had an ongoing tradition known as Farm Bureau Day which was essentially a one day fair at Lagoon. Around the mid-1920s there was talk of expanding the celebration into a full-fledged, annual fair. Governor George H. Dern spoke at the festivities in 1926 urging the county to do just that.

Preparing for the Davis County Fair at Lagoon in 1939. Photos from Deseret News

It wasn’t until 1929 that the Davis County Fair became a regular occurrence and Lagoon was home to the fair until World War II. In 1942, exhibits were dropped and the two-day fair reverted back to a single day. Lagoon remained closed for two or three seasons during the war and it seems there was a chance of it being closed for good. Land was purchased east of Davis High School in Kaysville as a permanent site for the county fair where school buildings such as the fieldhouse were also put to use.

When county fairs were first held on the Kaysville site in the 1940s, fair officials hoped to expand in that location, but surrounding plots of land later became unavailable. Residents of the homes being built around the perimeter of the fairgrounds complained of dust and noise from the fair. By the ’60s, the Davis School District needed space to build an equipment shed and the most obvious choice was the largely unused fairgrounds next to Davis High. The land was sold to the school district in 1964 with an agreement to have one last fair on the site in 1965. A county-owned park in an unincorporated area between Kaysville and Farmington was a decent place for relocating the county fair, but the required buildings and improvements could have taken years to complete. Meanwhile, Lagoon had been thriving since its World War II closure and it already had a race track and several practical buildings for exhibitions and contests. The former home of so many earlier county fairs was starting to look like an attractive venue once again.

Construction of buildings for the fair’s return to Lagoon in 1966. LEFT: Animal exhibit sheds were built west of the grandstand with the help of Davis County Jail inmates. RIGHT: Davis Pavilion was an exhibition building meant to double as a picnic pavilion during the regular season. Photos: Davis County Clipper

A deal was settled upon in 1965 for the fair to come back to Lagoon.¹ New animal sheds, pavilions and a grandstand were constructed on the property. The race track was revitalized after decades of going unused. The return of the county fair to Lagoon in 1966 brought in record crowds estimated to be three times the size the attendance of any previous fair.

Fixing up the fairgrounds at Lagoon in August 1977. Photo: Deseret News

The tradition continued each August with the fairgrounds also being used for events like Boy Scout jamborees. In the early ’80s, another multi-year lease was about to run out and Davis County was looking for a new site for its fair once again. In 1981, Lagoon began maintaining the county-owned grandstand (which stood where Double Thunder Raceway is now) as part of an agreement to purchase them from the county at the end of the lease. But the following winter, Lagoon showed interest in becoming a permanent host for the fair and even talked about donating land north of the park to the county for that purpose. Davis County had $50,000 budgeted for buying land for a new fairground and if it was decided to stay at Lagoon, that money would have gone towards construction of new buildings. The county also looked into the possibility of allowing the grounds to be used by equestrian groups to generate more revenue year-round.

A deal was never reached and the Davis County Fair had its last year at Lagoon in 1984. Livestock pens used since the ’60s were sold off and removed by early June of that year. Temporary pens were set up for the 1984 fair and afterwards, Lagoon went ahead with projects utilizing land once set aside for the fair. In September, construction began on a new maintenance and warehouse building where the pens had been located. A Deseret News interview with Peter Freed in 1982 revealed, “…Lagoon soon will expand to the north, building rides where the Davis County Fairgrounds now stand and the rodeos are held. He [Peter Freed] expects one of the first rides to be a new roller coaster, which he said he expects will cost about $3 million.” It’s very likely that the coaster mentioned was Colossus: The Fire Dragon which cost about the same and was installed the following year on the south end of the park. It wasn’t until 1986 that Lagoon’s midway expanded northward onto part of the land occupied by the race track. There were even plans to build an IMAX theater² somewhere on Lagoon’s property which never came to be.

The Davis County Fair would return to Kaysville for a time before a new, permanent fairground was completed southwest of Lagoon and Interstate 15 in 1990.

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LINKS

Lagoon And The Fair, Part II: The Utah State Fair

Lagoon And The Fair, Part III: The World’s Fair

Lagoon And The Fair Gallery

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NOTES

1. The first ten-year contract required Davis County to pay $3,000 annually for year-round use of the land. In 1975, a new ten-year contract was signed allowing the county to use the grounds for 10 days per year, free of charge. This was based on the fact that the county had made improvements to the property during the previous ten-year lease. It was also at that time that Lagoon paid $20,000 for facilities “previously used for cutter and horse racing tracks.”

2. Read more about the Lagoon IMAX which was never built.

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SOURCES

Public Opinion. Davis County Clipper, 17 Jun 1892.

Kaysville Kinks. Davis County Clipper, 23 Mar 1906.

Will Hold A County Fair. Davis County Clipper, 29 Jun 1906.

Excellent County Fair. Davis County Clipper, 5 Oct 1906.

Proved A Big Event Farm Bureau Day. Davis County Clipper, 3 Sep 1926.

Food Cookery Exhibits Feature Davis County Fair At Resort. Deseret News, 26 Aug 1931.

Farm Bureau Sets Davis County Fair At Lagoon, Aug. 15. Deseret News, 26 Jun 1934.

Davis County Fair Opens At Lagoon; Exhibits Colorful. Deseret News, 24 Aug 1939.

Davis County Fair Sets All-Time Attendance Record. Deseret News, 26 Aug 1939.

“Davis Howdy Days” Announced as New Davis Fair Name. Davis County Clipper, 7 Jun 1940.

County Fair Cut To One Day To Aid Victory. Davis County Clipper, 10 Jul 1942.

Davis County Fair Opens at Kaysville. Deseret News, 25 Aug 1950.

Davis Too Considers Fair Site At Lagoon. Davis County Clipper, 4 Sep 1964.

A Fair Question- Where To Locate. Davis County Clipper, 19 Mar 1965.

County Fair, Lagoon Ready For Signature. Davis County Clipper, 28 May 1965.

County Fair Is A Success. Davis County Clipper, 2 Sep 1966.

Davis County’s Fair Aug. 17-19 At Lagoon. Deseret News, 6 Jul 1972.

Fair time in Davis. Deseret News, 23 Aug 1973.

Davis Signs Contract For Fairs At Lagoon. Davis County Clipper, 3 Jan 1975.

Davis celebrates with parade. Deseret News, 21 Aug 1976.

Lagoon to purchase fair-site bleachers. Deseret News, 12 Feb 1981.

Lagoon possible fair site again. Deseret News, 26 Jan 1982.

Davis County Fair expected to pack Lagoon. Deseret News, 4 Aug 1982.

Pearson, Howard. He’s the master of the midway. Deseret News, 6 Aug 1982.

County unlikely to buy new fair site soon. Deseret News, 7 Sep 1982.

Lagoon stock pens are being removed. Deseret News, 31 May 1984.

Winter hasn’t slowed the work at Lagoon. Deseret News, 5-6 Feb 1985.

Arave, Lynn. 4 days of fun on tap at Davis fair. Deseret News, 16 Aug 1999.

History of the Fair. UtahStateFair.com, accessed 2 Sep 2012.

Lagoon ’65

Lagoon '65
Photo/Artwork: Deseret News

When Lagoon first opened in its current location, it was much smaller than it is today. New rides and attractions are being added almost every year, but eventually the size of the park needs to expand to accommodate everything, not to mention the added crowds that come to visit.

One major expansion began in 1964 when 60 acres were acquired north of the park. A portion of Lagoon Lane (which used to run east to west along the northern boundary of the park) was closed and park offices were moved with the intent of some day hosting the Utah State Fair. The agreement was that Lagoon would take ownership of the land and the park would make improvements on the land. Some attractions were relocated, new ones were added and the area opened in spring of 1965.

This expansion was so significant at the time that an entire section of the May 28th Deseret News was devoted to Lagoon. Many of the advertisements¹ in the section even included references to Lagoon and the new expansion. Here’s a look at each of the attractions in the area.

North Midway '65
Drawing of the new North Midway from the Deseret News.

THE JULIAN M. BAMBERGER FOUNTAIN

Bamberger Fountain Plaque
Photo: B. Miskin

The centerpiece of the addition was a new fountain named in honor of Julian M. Bamberger. Son of Lagoon’s founder, Simon Bamberger, Julian took over operations of the park and the Bamberger Railroad after his father was elected governor of Utah. He remained the owner as the Freeds began leasing the park in 1946 until they bought it from Bamberger in the ’70s. The paper described the fountain as, “a 50-foot pool with sprays and jets that will shoot water 35 feet high accompanied with dramatic lighting effects”. A plaque can still be found on a rock sitting next to it which states the fountain was “presented by his wife to Lagoon for its beautification and the enjoyment of its patrons”.

FLYING SWINGS

Added to Lagoon in the previous season, this may have been one of the relocated rides. The Flying Swings were, at least in 1965, on the west side of the Midway not far from the Patio Gardens, roughly where Space Scrambler currently sits.

FERRIS WHEEL

This particular Ferris Wheel replaced an older one in 1953. It survived the devastating fire that November and has been moved a few different times, but has always been somewhere on the north end. It was permanently removed in 1990.

WILD MOUSE

Wild Mouse, ca. 1970
Wild Mouse ca. 1970. Screen capture from Parks Of The Past, Volume 1 DVD²

The major attraction was a Mack Wild Mouse which had previously been in use at the recent World’s Fair in Seattle. (The same World’s Fair for which the iconic Space Needle was built). The ride only lasted here a few years before being removed. Soon after it was rebuilt and improved on the South Midway.

SPACE SCRAMBLER

Originally opening at the park in 1961, this ride has also moved around quite a bit. In 1965, it was placed just east of the Wild Mouse, close to where the entrance to Jet Star 2 is now.

HI-STRIKER

Wild Mouse, Bing-O-Reno, Popcorn Wagon
Image from a May 1965 newspaper ad.

Hi-Striker, the classic midway game where participants test their strength³, came to Lagoon in 1964 and could be found next to the Basketball game in 1965. Both Hi-Striker and Basketball would have been moved when Opera House Square opened in 1968. There could also have been more than one different Hi-Striker before and after 1964. An electronic Hi-Striker was installed in 1995, but it wasn’t operating in the 2015 season. Instead, a much smaller, portable version called Rocket Launch was placed in front of it. An even smaller, kid’s Rocket Launch game opened south of the Gourmet Burgers & Chicken stand. A new electronic Hi-Striker with sound effects and a scrolling marquee replaced the old one in 2016. Allegedly, it was purchased from Knott’s Berry Farm and refurbished.

BASKETBALL

Also known as the Basketball Toss, this game was introduced in 1964 as well. It’s very similar to the Slam Dunk game that exists today.

BING-O-RENO

The only mention of this game I’ve found is in advertising from May 1965. It might simply be some kind of variation on the game of Bingo.

POPCORN WAGON

Ranch Kimball (left) and Robert Freed (right) at the new Popcorn Wagon. Flying Swings in the background. Photo courtesy of Deseret News

This antique popcorn wagon originally served hamburgers at 2nd East and 3rd South in Salt Lake City. These popcorn wagons were produced by C. Cretor & Co. around 1910. According to the May 1965 Deseret News article, it’s a 1907 White Motor Company truck which was “completely restored and rebuilt by Charles W. Cram of the Kimball-Cram Sign Company”. It was moved to Opera House Square when it opened in 1968 and can be seen on the left in the photo below.

Opera House Square

The next major expansion to Lagoon opened about a decade later when Pioneer Village opened on the east side of the park.

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LINKS

Lagoon And The Fair, Part I: Davis County Fair

Flying Swings

Wild Mouse

Space Scrambler

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NOTES

1. You can look through the special Lagoon ’65 section and see the special Lagoon-related ads from Broadway Music, Clover Club, Lynn Wilson’s, Felt Electric, Continental Bank, Mountain Dew, Hi-Land, Wirthlin’s, Anderson Lumber & AG Food Stores. The Felt Electric and Anderson Lumber ads both mention their services were used in the new expansion.

2. From the DVD Parks From The Past, Volume I available from Sharpshooters Productions. Used with permission.

3. Here’s an article from an issue of Popular Mechanics in 1935 which explains how High Striker games were controlled by operators to alter the results.

 

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SOURCES

Lagoon ’65. Deseret News, 26 May 1965.

Arave, Lynn. Take a wild ride at Lagoon on new Wild Mouse in ’98. Deseret News, 5 Dec 1997.

Lagoon’s Games. LagoonIsFun.com, accessed 8 Dec 2010.

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