The first La Salle County Fair was held in March of 1972. It was a community project of the Young Homemakers of Texas, Cotulla Chapter. The young women of this organization felt there was a need to have periodic competitive exhibitions for showing products that were produced by the youth and adults of our county.
In 1974 the Fair had grown to the point that the Young Homemakers felt the County Fair should be run by the people of the whole community. At that time every organization in the county was asked to send a representative to an organizational meeting. From this meeting the La Salle County Fair Association evolved.
The year 1980 marked the centennial for La Salle County and the Fair Board decided that something was needed to draw more people to our Centennial Celebration. It needed to be unique and promote hunting, the county’s main industry. Since there was an abundance of wild hogs and no season to hunt them, it was decided that a Wild Hog Cook-Off would be the answer. So in March 1980, the first Wild Hog Cook-Off was held with only five teams competing. The hog meat could be prepared any way, not just barbecuing, but all entries had to be cooked on the Fair Grounds the day of the Cook-Off.
A Lease Agreement was reached in 1984 with the American Legion, and the building of our show barn began. With a show barn, one of our ultimate goals had been realized when we were able to have our first top rate livestock show and sale with 14 steers. In 1985 the Fair Board decided to set a positive professional direction toward producing and promoting the Cook-Off and Fair. The grounds were enclosed with a security fence, a ticket policy was established and restroom facilities, as well as a large kitchen and meeting room, were added. The Cook-Off was further improved by adding two new categories: Showmanship and Artistic Presentation. For Showmanship, teams decorated their cooking area to go with the theme. A unique part of our Cook-Off, that set us apart from other Cook-Offs, was Artistic Presentation. This is where elaborate and unique trays were prepared to serve the uniquely prepared hog meat.
By 1986 the Fair Association and the Chamber of Commerce saw the need to work together even closer to organize the Fair and Cook-Off. It was decided that we needed one young lady to represent both organizations, helping to advertise the Fair, city, and our community. Her title would be the “La Salle County Fair Queen”. Second, a common theme was needed for both the Parade and the Wild Hog Cook-Off. Third, we would share in all the expenses.
Continued growth allowed for more changes, among them the expansion of the Arts and Crafts Show in 1988. It was decided that our youth needed another avenue to express themselves, so a Science Fair was added. This would not only encourage our children, but would show what our schools covered in the education process. The Fair Board also decided to expand the event through Sunday to include a Ranch Rodeo.
The Wild Hog Cook-Off continued to grow by leaps and bounds, and by 1989, it became necessary to add two new categories. First, a Champion of Champions Division would be added for the winners of previous years to compete in as well as the current year’s open division. Thus, there would be nine teams in the Champion of Champions division each year. Second, Artistic Presentation was divided into two divisions of Edible and Non-Edible. In the Edible tray everything must be edible. The Non-Edible tray could contain both edible and non-edible items. Both divisions must make their presentation to carry out the theme of the Wild Hog Cook-Off. This was also the year that the Wild Hog Futurity was added as a Sunday event.
1995 brought an addition of land to the fair site. The Ben Alexander Estate donated Twenty acres adjacent to the existing fairgrounds. The acreage was used for the construction of the Alexander Memorial Show Barn and additional parking area. In 1996 the La Salle County Exhibit Hall was opened to commercial booths which sold handcrafted items only. Also moved to the Exhibit Hall were the Arts and Crafts show and the Science Fair. The Livestock Show is no longer just for steers or heifers, but swine, broilers and goats. We have something for all ages in our events, which include: Entertainers, Fair Queen Contest, Little Mr. & Miss La Salle Contest, Pet Parade, Wild Pig Scramble, Science Fair, Poster Contest, Food Show, Western Dance, Arts & Crafts Show, Ranch Rodeo, Wild Hog Futurity, and more commercial and food booths than we ever thought possible.
March 1997 saw the completion of the office, which was added to the existing building. This was so we would be able to work out of the building and have a centralized location for personnel and guests to get information.
In May of l997, the La Salle County Fair Association began a scholarship fund in memory of Mr. & Mrs. Ben Alexander. The first scholarship in the amount of $2,500.00, was awarded to Mr. Clint Wolfe of Texas A & M University. In 1998, the scholarship was awarded to Brandi Boatwright, who also attends Texas A & M University.
In February 1998, the board commissioned C. W. Warden to do the memorial plaque of Ben and Ida Alexander which was installed in the Fair Building Meeting Room. Also, during this time, County Commissioner Andy Landrum assisted the Fair Association in obtaining enough asphalt to pave part of our fair ground. This was to help cut back on the blowing dirt and dust during the fair.
1998 also saw the board voting to award youth premiums. This went to the Grand and Reserve Champions, and the top 4 blue ribbon scores. The board felt this would encourage the youth to excel with their entries. A set premium was designated for the Poster Contest, Science Fair and Arts and Crafts. The food show items went to our food auction where the youth receive fifty percent of the auction price for their items.
In 1999, we expanded our scholarship fund to help as many of the young people as we could with the budgeted money in our scholarship fund. Anyone wishing to donate money for this account will have their name listed on our scholarship contribution list and a scholarship issued in their name for that year. Expansion also took place on the Exhibit Hall adding space for our Arts & Crafts and Science Fair, which allowed us to expand the area for commercial exhibitors.
Continued growth has allowed for more changes. It was decided that our youth needed still another avenue to express themselves, so there was the addition of an Essay Contest in which Middle School and High School Students may participate. The Essay topic is chosen each year, to encourage our children educationally by helping them with their writing and at research skills.
2002 saw an addition to our Food Show by including a Canned Goods-Open Show along with our regular Food Show. During 2002, the Association also purchased one acre of land formerly the Amberson Property. 2003 found us building the additional restrooms and storage facilities at the Alexander Memorial Show Barn. 2004 shows changes in our Arts Show and Science Fair and the addition of the coloring contest for our preschool and Kindergarten classes.
Our fair is always a work in progress and we welcome anyone willing to give of their time to help the youth and our community. The week of the fair has always been known as “homecoming time”, a time to meet and greet old and new friends. Come and be a part of the fair membership to help make it happen.