The Cass County Fair in Pleasant Hill will mark its 20-year anniversary next week, meaning old-fashioned fun still has yet to go out of style.
Pleasant Hill Community Development Director Randy Miller has been instrumental in the fair’s longtime success since the first year in 1994.
“I think our vision was to have an old-fashioned county fair with all the components that you would have of a fair of that type,” Miller said. “From a carnival to the home economics show, we really wanted a lot of citizen participation and it’s been that way ever since.”
Miller said the success of the fair has been garnered by local people bringing their unique vehicles to the car show and gardeners bringing their biggest cucumber to show, among other things.
Festival organizers have also kept children in mind, hosting livestock shows for the kids and making sure there were plenty of carnival activities.
The fair, which runs Thursday-Sunday, July 16-21, will once again take place on the Cass County Fairgrounds on W. 58 Highway and in the downtown Pleasant Hill area. Approximately 12,000-15,000 people attend the event annually.
Activities will begin Tuesday, July 16, with opening ceremonies slated for 6:45 p.m. A new event for 2013 is a talent competition, Cass County Voice, which will follow at 7 p.m.
The event will be a talent showcase and voice/instrument competition giving opportunity to only Cass County residents.
“There’s a lot of talent in Cass County,” Miller said. “We really think it will go well.”
Fair organizers are also bringing in a new carnival organizer, Sonshine Amusements.
“We’re anticipating that they will have some nice rides,” Miller said.
The city is giving away $5 off coupons for wristband purchases. The coupons can be picked up at Peculiar City Hall, Family Center in Harrisonville, Pleasant Hill City Hall, Midwest Lumber True Value in Pleasant Hill, Pleasant Hill Bank, Pleasant Hill Pet & Livestock or Community Bank of Pleasant Hill.
Traditional events, including motocross and ATV races, demolition derby, MRCA/URA adult rodeo, tractor pull, livestock show, fireworks display, 5K run, and a host of competitions, are a part of the fair schedule again this year.
The fair will also feature a variety of musical acts with entertainment beginning at 8 p.m. Thursday, July 18, with “Country Road 5” performing at the Miller Lite Entertainment Pavilion.
Talent will carry throughout the weekend with a gospel music show beginning at 6:30 p.m. Friday, July 19, featuring Higher Grasspirations, along with Mark Guffey and the Reunion Gospel Band at the downtown gazebo.
The “Jeremy Nichols Band” will perform later in the evening at 10 p.m. at the entertainment pavilion.
Saturday performances will include a daylong Bluegrass and Old Time Music Festival in the gazebo from 10:45 a.m.-7:35 p.m., and live music from the “Justin Heskett Band,” at the entertainment pavilion later in the evening.
While this particular fair has only been running continuously for 20 years, various fairs throughout Cass County have been popular since the 1850s.
According to an article by Irene Webster Pippit of the Cass County Historical Society in 1999, the Cass County Agriculture and Mechanical Association was organized during the summer of 1854 and that September, a 23-acre fairground was the scene of a week-long fair in Pleasant Hill.
The fair was a success, but the annual event was interrupted during the Civil War when the fairgrounds were used for military camps for both federal troops and Confederate soldiers.
The fair resumed in 1868, and other communities throughout Cass County also began hosting their own, as well.
The Belton Fair Association was incorporated in 1891. After 10 years, the Fair Association dissolved because of the “lack of patronage by the general public and the heavy depreciation of its capital stock,” the article stated.
A year later, the Belton celebration revived itself, but the new association met with little financial success. Lightening struck the show and resulted in the death of two people in 1905.
In later years, there were reports of various groups using vacant lots in Belton for displays, competition and entertainment.
The Cass News reported in its Sept. 20, 1889 edition that there was a “good prospect that funds could be raised for the organization of a fair” in Harrisonville.
There are no records that pinpoint the date of the first county fair, but Aug. 21-24, 1900, the “Big Cass County Fair” had already become a Harrisonville tradition, Pippet stated in the article.
Like today, an early county fair was described as a success from every standpoint -- ideal weather, ideal displays, ideal races, and ideal crowds.
The Harrisonville fair was held until World War I, and documents from the Cass County Historical Society indicated the Pleasant Hill fair may have lasted through the early 1940s. When the present-day Cass County Fair in Pleasant Hill launched in 1994, nearly 50 years had gone by without a festival where entertainment was family-oriented and where friends and neighbors could meet and visit.
“Several folks got together and thought it would be great to get an event going of that nature,” Miller recalled. “We all saw eye-to-eye as far as what it should be and we actually went to the County Commission at that time and got their blessing to put the name, Cass County Fair, on it, got a proclamation, and the rest was history.”
The present day site of the fair was obtained by the city of Pleasant Hill in the 1980s when the land where the local saw mill had operated became available and was bought on the courthouse steps. At that time, the city had envisioned using the property to house the Meals on Wheels program. As plans were being developed for a fair, festival organizers saw the former saw mill as a potential location.
“We had no facilities,” Miller said. “(The site) remained unimproved until the fair came along and in just looking around the area for a place to put it, it was a logical place.”
The arena was built with a load of used well pipe and was constructed by a local Ford Plant worker who was on vacation.
Miller was serving as the city’s economic development director at the time and had the vision to bring county residents together once a year.
“I’ve been at it a long time and I’ve seen a lot of growth,” he said. “The fair has thrived on a unique partnership between the city of Pleasant Hill and volunteers, sponsors, and really all the people who come to the fair.”
Volunteers throughout the county serve on the Cass County Fair Board, which meets on a monthly basis throughout the year to prepare the festival.
During its first year, there were more than 100 entries in the parade that wound through downtown Pleasant Hill on the Saturday during the fair. Rodeo competitions were also apart of the inaugural celebration, and have also remained largely popular with the fair since its earliest days.
Miller said over the years, motorized events have also become popular.
“I feel like we have created a lot of memories over the years,” he said.
With more activities, the fair has also grown in budget. Miller said their first budget was $10,000. Today, it costs more than $120,000 to put on the six-day event.
“We hope we’re providing a product that people like,” Miller said.
Tuesday, July 16
5-7 p.m. Fashion review
6:45 p.m. Opening ceremony
7 p.m. Motocross races
7 p.m. Cass County Voice
Wednesday, July 17
1 p.m. Youth dairy show
5 p.m. Rabbit show (check-in)
7 p.m. Rabbit show (judging)
7 p.m. Baby contest winners announced
8 p.m. ATV races
Thursday, July 18
7 p.m. Poultry show
8 p.m. Demolition derby
8 p.m.-12:30 a.m. “Country Road 5”
Friday, July 19
9 a.m.-1 p.m. Youth meat goat show
Noon-9 p.m. Cass County 4-H Exhibits and FFA Exhibits open
12-9 p.m. Home Economics and Horticulture Show
1-9 p.m. Quilt show
1-9 p.m. Art and Photo show
5-10 p.m. Depot Park vendors open
8 p.m. MRCA/URA Adult Rodeo
10:30 pm. Fireworks display
10 p.m.-1 a.m. “The Jeremy Nichols Band”
Saturday, July 20
7-10:30 a.m. Lions Pancake breakfast
8 a.m. Youth beef show
8 a.m. 5K run at Boardman and Cedar
8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Cass County bookmobile
9-11 a.m. KMZU Radio “The Farm” live remote
9 a.m.-9 p.m. Cass County 4-H Exhibits and FFA Exhibits open
9 a.m.-8 p.m. Depot Park vendors open
9 a.m. Parade
10 a.m.-9 pm. Art and Photo, Home Economics, Horticulture and Quilt shows
10 a.m.-2 pm. Classic car, truck and hot rod show
10 a.m. Pleasant Hill Chamber of Commerce Chair Challenge and auction
11 a.m. Doug Porter Memorial Firefighters Competition
1 p.m. Bike rodeo
4 p.m. Super farmer competition
8 p.m. MRCA/URA Adult Rodeo
10:30 p.m. Fireworks display
10 p.m.-1 a.m. “Justin Heskett Band”
Sunday, July 21
1 p.m. Pet show
2 p.m. Kid’s Pedal tractor pulL
7 p.m. M.S.T.P.A. Truck and tractor pull