Fulton County Fair History

Records show that the Fulton County Fair Association was formed and incorporated by the State of Arkansas on September 17, 1919. It was a for-profit organization and memberships were sold for $5 each. The authorized capital stock was $5,000. Incorporators were: C. W. Pardew, S. M. Reaves, J. T. Livingston, Race Humphries and Lamar Waters.

The fair grounds were located near the present Salem Municipal Airport. Records show that 4,000 people were at the 1921 fair and came by wagon and the new Model T Ford car. The events were horse races, trick riders and baseball. At the early fairs many people camped at the fair which gave them a chance to visit with neighbors. Vester Williams, a long time historian of Fulton County, tells in his August 25, 1966 newspaper article that schools played a big part in the fair. During the early fairs schools would compete at the county fair in recitations, spelling and ciphering matches and in athletic contests.

The crash of the stock market in 1929, the  great depression and the war stopped the fair in the county. Records indicate that for almost twenty years there was no Fulton County Fair.

The fair resumed in the early 1950's at the old high school as a non-profit organization. Some of the board members in the early 50's were Obed Maguffee, Jim Bob Plumlee, Linn Thomas, Hester Harris, Ora Campbell, and Iris and Nell Everett. Today these board members have children and grandchildren who are serving as board members and volunteers for the Fulton County Fair.

Sometime prior to 1955 the fair relocated to Preacher Roe Ball Park. Arnold Cheek was the fair manager in 1955 and some of the other board members were: Walter Nesbitt, Ray Hester, George Meyer, Everett Lowrance, and Clarence Morris. Admission to the 1955 fair was 25 cents for children and 50 cents for adults.

The fair board selected youth to assist the adults with the fair exhibits in 1970. Beef cattle superintendents were John Brink and Forest Bassham; dairy cattle was supervised by Raydean Prewett and Roger Kinder. Wayne Southard and Jim Watkins were in charge of poultry and rabbits. Margaret Holland and Debbie Caldwell were women's department superintendents. Lora Owens and Marilyn Benton were in the flower department. Iris Everett and Kerry Roberts served as horticulture supervisors and Clessie Watson and Aileen Paysinger were in charge of educational exhibits.

A fire destroyed the exhibit building at Preacher Roe Park in 1973 and since fair officials realized that the ball park was not big enough for the fair any more, the decision was made to re-locate to a larger area. The community came together and 10 acres of land was purchased by the City of Salem with help from the Fulton County Fair Association, Ozark Mountain Music Makers, and North Arkansas Electric Cooperative. This land included the current city pool and the club house. This became the home of the OMMM weekly Saturday night show, the county fair, and NAEC's annual meeting. A contest was held to name the facility and Betsy Benton was the winner with the name "Salem Civic Center." The theater building and a cattle barn were added to the civic center and the 1973 county fair was held in the new location. Some of the fair officials involved in making this move were Salem Mayor Gary Clayton, Norma Ferguson, Ronald Plumlee, Doraine Paysinger, Louise Ferguson, and Owen Biles. In the late 1970’s a second barn added to the Fairgrounds/Civic Center Complex.

Tractor pulling was soon added to the fair events and there was a need for an arena. In 1985 the Fulton County Fair Association purchased 10 acres of land from Ronald and Gail Plumlee adjoining the Civic Center and expanded the fairgrounds to 20 acres. Fulton County and individuals donated labor to construct a 2000 seat arena and concession stand where the truck and tractor pull and bull riding, and rodeos were held. Some of the fair board members in 1985 were Jim Walling, Doraine Paysinger, Ronald Plumlee, Jackie Clayton, Sherry Clayton, Frank Rowlett, and Noble and Carolyn Lewis.

A third livestock barn was constructed in 2001 to house swine exhibits. Additional acreage for parking was donated to the Fair Association in 2003 by Ron and Gail Plumlee. Two parking areas have been constructed on this land and a third lot is under construction.

The Hickinbotham-Miller Exhibit Building was completed in 2004. This 7,000 square foot climate controlled building has a full kitchen and is used by the community during the fair off-season for meetings, weddings, family reunions, events, etc.

Two new events were added in 2005. A Summer Demolition Derby is held in June and the Fulton County Motor Cross is in July.

Volunteers are a vital part of the Fulton County Fair. The number of volunteers continues to increase each year. In 2005 over 150 people donated time to the Fulton County Fair.