Alaska Facts and History
Did you know that the Alaska State Fair started in Anchorage? Do you know what year the carnival rides began?
A man named Milton Snodgrass ran the Matanuska Valley Experimental Station and in 1924, he decided to put together a yearly fair.
His idea was to hold the Western Alaska Fair in Anchorage.
At that time, the Knik River bridge had not yet been constructed, so the only way to get to and from the Matanuska Valley was the Alaska Railroad.
The Western Alaska Fair was held from 1924 to 1929.
From 1929 until 1936, there was no fair.
The Matanuska Colony
In the photo above is the Colony’s 1935 tent city in the Matanuska Valley
in 1935, Milton Snodgrass worked with 203 families with farming experience who made an incredible trip from the lower 48 to the Matanuska Valley to establish the Matanuska Colony and what would become the town of Palmer, Alaska.
The Matanuska Valley soil had been found to be excellent for growing vegetables.
Described in the dictionary as
“a farmers' association organized in 1867. The Grange sponsors social activities, community service.”
The Grange, officially named The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, is a social organization and more in the United States.
In 1936, Milton Snodgrass put together the Grange in the Matanuska Valley. One of the goals of the Grange was to plan the first Palmer Fair to replace the fair in Anchorage.
The 1936 Matanuska Valley Fair
The first Matanuska Valley Fair included many agricultural exhibits from local colony farmers as well as a rodeo, baseball games, horse races, boxing, dances, the crowning of a fair queen and a baby show.
Tickets for the 1936 fair were $1 for adults and admission for children under 8 was free.
Knik River Bridge
Then, in 1936, the Knik River Bridge opened, which meant there were two ways to get to the fair from in and around Anchorage. Fair goers could take the Alaska Railroad, or travel by vehicle.
Did your family make an adventure out of going to the Alaska State Fair by train?
For over 10 years, Mary of Anchorage Memories, and her family rode the train from Anchorage to the fair. Then after a day of fun at the fair, they took the train back to town. On at least two occasions, Mary and her family enjoyed the added treat of looking out the window of the train and seeing the Northern Lights.
Of Giant Cabbages and Kings
Yes, I’m being a bit poetic. “Of Cabbages and Kings” is a 1940s novel by O. Henry.
Poetry aside, in 1941, the manager of the Alaska Railroad had a great idea. He put up a $25 prize for the largest cabbage displayed at that year’s fair.
The winning cabbage was grown by Max Sherrod of the Matanuska Valley. His Cabbage weighed in at 23 pounds.
71 years later, in 2012, a Palmer farmer named Scott Robb set a record for the World’s Largest Cabbage at the Alaska State Fair. His cabbage was a healthy 138 plus pounds… Now that’s a lot of coleslaw.
The First Carnival Rides at the Fair
Photo above by Stephen Cysewski Wandering Alaska.com
From 1936, to 1950, it was 14 years before carnival rides were added to the fair.
What’s your favorite carnival ride at the Alaska State Fair?
A Tale of Two State Fairs
And yes, I did it again. This time I was being very literary. “A Tale of Two Cities” is an 1859 novel by Charles Dickens.
Our tale is slightly different.
In 1956, there was an official decision to alternate the Alaska State Fair between two cities. The Palmer Fair and the Tanana Valley Fair in Fairbanks. In 1959, that practice was ended.
Log Food Booths
Photo above by Stephen Cysewski Wandering Alaska.com
Food is one of the great things about the Alaska State Fair.
In 1970, a local log smith named Jimmy Hitchcock created log food booths for the fair. Then in 1975, it was decided that buildings from the early days of Palmer would be moved to the fairgrounds.
The Alaska State Fair Today
All these years later, Milton Snodgrass would be proud that his idea for a yearly fair is still going strong from Late August to early September in the Matanuska Valley.
Did You Know?
You can share this look at the History of the Alaska State Fair with friends and family.
And when you do, they will be so happy that they will send you all your favorite fair food during this year’s fair… Well, it could happen.
Click on the following link to share this History of the Alaska State Fair edition.
Our North Stars (that’s you) Said This
About ALCAN Memories
“Thank you for the Alcan history and related stories”
“Dad was stationed at Elmendorf 1960-64. When transferred to the lower 48 in'64 we drove the Alcan in a 1959 Pontiac Bonneville hauling a 15' Aloha travel trailer.
Average speed was 30-35 mph. Drivers tended to space out when following another car to minimize breathing in the prior car's dust cloud. We camped in a variety of sites. In some places, small stores allowed parking in their public lots. Occasionally, in Canada, we actually found state maintained parks. It was quite an experience. I was 14 at the time.”
“Thank you, love the stories.”
“Diane and I drive that road every year, and truthfully, it is boring compared to the adventures it used to hold. Almost all the old roadhouses are gone due to the rerouting of the road. The great climbs over Trutch and Summit are also gone due to rerouting. Still enjoyable for the wildlife though.”
Did you hear?
Anchorage Memories is adding a new free monthly edition on Anchorage Pioneers.
Get ready to discover who built Anchorage Alaska.
You are right… we have shown you this picture of Mike and Mary before. But it seemed right for this history of the Alaska State Fair edition, since we’re riding a mini steam train… even though it’s in California.
Did you enjoy this look at the history of the Alaska State Fair?
Tell us about your Alaska State Fair memories.
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Until Next Time
Mike and Mary