On February 8, 1938 the commissioners of Toole County held their first meeting to discuss the purchase of fairgrounds. For $500 the land was secured and the WPA (Works Progress Administration) performed the cleanup and construction. That summer, the county threw the first Marias Fair.
In the fair’s early years, it served as a place for agriculturists in the area to meet, sell goods, and share ideas with one another. The county’s 4-H program was, and still is, central to the fair’s success, with many visitors coming to support the youth and check out their livestock, cooking, clothing, and other projects.
After taking a short hiatus during World War II, the Marias Fair was back on and getting bigger than ever. Over the years, the fair underwent many expansions, including the addition of a carnival, rodeo, demolition derby, firework show, and concert (all of which can be enjoyed this year). The Marias Fair also came to be a four county fair, with Pondera, Glacier, and Liberty Counties joining Toole in the planning and celebration.
One thing that has not changed is the fairground’s grandstands. While there have been repairs and improvements made, the original wooden grandstands from that first 1938 Marias Fair are still in use. “We have one of the oldest wooden grandstands in the state,” former county commissioner Buster Brown states proudly.
Another unwavering constant in the Marias Fair is its focus on 4-H. One of the most exciting events at the fair each year is the 4-H Fat Livestock Auction. Cattle, sheep, and pigs that have been raised by the 4-H members are auctioned off to the public. The youth get to put the money toward college and other future opportunities. “It’s a great auction and we’ve come to be known for it,” says Brown. Support for young people across four counties is just one reason Brown is proud that the Marias Fair is celebrating its 75th.
The Marias Fair is taking place July 20-24 at the Marias Fairgrounds in Shelby. For more information, visit mariasfair.com.